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Full medical program fees and medical student career intention

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Admission to Australian medical schools is highly competitive, despite an increase in capacity from about 1200 places in 1999 to 3500 places in 2013.1 Most of these places are Commonwealth supported; in 2013, students paid A$9450 for each of the 4–6 years of medical tuition via the HECS-HELP scheme (Higher Education Contribution Scheme, Higher Education Loan Program).2

Tuition fees can be paid in advance or deferred until an annual income threshold is reached (A$51 309 in the 2013–14 financial year); deferred payments are interest-free but adjusted according to the consumer price index.3 In 2011, 56% of medical school entrants had a prior degree that may have also generated HECS-HELP debt.4

Medical students enrolled in a Commonwealth-supported place (CSP) may accrue a debt of A$36 000 to A$63 000, depending on course structure and prior degrees (4–7 years of fees), plus living expenses (about A$15 000 per year if away from home2). Concerns have been raised about the potential inequity of pricing medical education beyond the range that is practical for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.5,6

Subsidies for tuition fees…