What About This?

By Wayne William Cipriano

I was watching the news. One of the stories was about how few medical doctors practice in low income areas. Among the reasons listed for that was the “crushing” debt most doctors carry as they begin their careers. The size of that educational debt was reported to average more than $250,000. A quarter of a million dollars plus collecting interest (I assume) sounds like a pretty serious debt to me. And so, said the news reporter, even the most altruistic medico couldn’t do anything but go for the big bucks to pay off that debt. And the big bucks are seldom found in the projects.

Sounds reasonable. Then I got to thinking…

I don’t have any firm figures at my fingertips but anyone adept at computers can probably find out rather easily the average yearly salary for doctors. I’ve seen such figures but it was a while ago and I do not want to guess. And of course these would be averages, depending a great deal on the medical specialty and the geographic location – the two largest determinates.

Everyone, or nearly everyone who attends graduate school (medical, law, etc.) lives on the cheap while they are studying. We live in tiny apartments, drive beater cars, eat pizzas and Raman noodles, and usually date graduate students who understand how full-grown adults could be so smart and so broke.

Those big debts from medical schools wouldn’t be so if potential doctors would not pay the tuition and so on. Students pay and rack up those debts to be able to help mankind in their chosen profession, and there is also the fact that, for the most part, doctors make a pretty good living. Thus, the cost of the education and the “crushing” debt is worthwhile.

The big difference between freshly graduated medical doctors and, say, doctors of philosophy is that salary once training is completed. Like I said, I don’t know what doctors’ salaries are, but I do know something about paying off student debt. 

When we were so good at living so cheap as students, you wonder what happened when student status ceased and salaries began. One could go wild: get that slick apartment with concierge service, buy that Beamer for workdays and a little Alfa for the weekends, arrange for a special table at the upscale local restaurant, and populate our lives with high-maintenance significant others. Why not? We deserve some creature comforts. We studied long and hard, we deliver needed services with skill and accept much responsibility. We should enjoy the benefits that accompany all that. Right now!

Anyone who can do a little math can quickly discover how long it would take, living as we did in graduate school, to pay off the “crushing” debt making the bucks we do now. A year? Two? Can it be that these persons, so smart, so well-trained, so responsible haven’t figured that out yet?

I suppose we could stretch out the educational debt repayment schedule indefinitely, just paying the interest and a bit of the principal. And then we could continue to complain about the “crushing” debt beneath which we suffered. And we would keep the size of our compensation to ourselves.