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Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Caribbean Med School Grads’ Defaults

This is one of our editors’ picks from our ongoing roundup of Investigations Elsewhere.

 A commodities trader isn’t the most likely person to start a medical school -- and in a motel at that -- but in 1978 Robert Ross did just that. Now the Ross University School of Medicine, on the Caribbean island of Dominica, has about 3,500 students, making it twice the size of the largest med school in the U.S. It also takes in about $150 million a year in U.S. government-backed student loans. But according to an investigation in the St. Petersburg Times, both students and taxpayers may be getting shortchanged.

Ross caters to med school applicants whose low test scores bar them from U.S. schools. U.S. students at Ross, and about two dozen other offshore medical schools, still qualify for federal student loans, however. So taxpayers are left with the bill when those students can’t pay their student debts. And according to the Times, students at Ross graduate with more debt than those at U.S. medical schools, and about 20 percent of them “fail to land a residency, the key to a license to practice in the United States.”

The paper doesn’t say how many Ross students and graduates default, but “federal regulators” (it doesn’t say which ones) are investigating the matter. Ross says that less than 1 percent of its medical students default on their loans within two years of graduating, but a spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers said that that number is misleading: "The student can be making $5 a month payments and the school can come out looking fabulous."

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