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Bay Area real estate developer pledges $55M to alleviate medical students' debt at Stanford

School of Medicine plans to match contribution for a total $90M in scholarships

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Stanford University alumnus and Bay Area real estate developer John Arrillaga has pledged $55 million towards the Stanford School of Medicine to help cover tuition costs for qualified students, the university announced Wednesday.

"I hope this gift will attract a diverse group of the best and brightest students from every socioeconomic background to the university and bring a Stanford Medical School education within reach for any student who may not have been able to consider it otherwise," Arrillaga said in a news release. "I believe that focusing aid on students with established need is what is best from an equity and opportunity standpoint."

With the School of Medicine planning to match Arrillaga's contribution through other donations and "increased institutional support," $90 million in scholarships is expected to go towards medical students' debt over the next decade.

To determine qualified students, the university will consider the total cost of attendance, which includes tuition and living costs, and subtract from it the student's "available family contribution."

According to the university, last year's graduating class of medical students came out of school with a median debt of just over $89,000 — significantly lower than the 2019 national median debt of $200,000 reported by the Association of American Medical Colleges. That same year, more than two-thirds of Stanford medical students qualified for financial support.

With Arrillaga's donation, the university is expected to double the available assistance provided to qualified incoming students. The gift will also help the medical school provide financial aid through a more holistic approach to determining need, according to university leaders.

"Our hope is to address the rising cost of medical school by eliminating the financial pressure for those students who feel it most," said Dr. Lloyd Minor, the Carl and Elizabeth Naumann dean of the School of Medicine. "Also, because we live in an area with such a high overall cost of living, we appreciate that tuition-free does not necessarily mean debt-free."

By removing the burden of debt, Stanford also hopes that it will encourage medical students to seek "less lucrative specialties" as well as careers in academic research or teaching.

This is not the first donation to Stanford from the billionaire landowner. Arrillaga, who received financial aid as a Stanford student, made one of the largest donations to the university in 2013 with $151 million.

His surname has been attached to several buildings on campus, including one of the university's dining halls, the Arrillaga Family Dining Commons.

He has also made large contributions to the city of Menlo Park for major building projects, and a number of buildings in the city's civic center bear his name.

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