Funding a college education of any kind can be an expensive business; it excludes some promising students from reaching their full potential altogether. Some commercial medical schools based in the Caribbean have to some extent found the answer for prospective students.
Those that have no access to federal loans from the US encourage some of their students to join an online degree program at a US university to get around the rules. This benefits not only the students but also the US colleges offering college degrees online. As a result these offshore medical schools (OMSs) are growing in popularity.
They are not, however, approved by the US government as educational institutions, being accredited as such only by their home government. There are about 36 OMSs in the Caribbean Islands and at least nine of them have formed an alliance with US colleges.
This permits them to utilize a loophole that allows students to obtain financial aid for their education by claiming living-expenses loans from the US. This is vital for some students as it allows them to use the funds available via their web-based US learning to fund their day-to-day living in the Caribbean while they study.
Many of the students involved are those dedicated to pursuing a career in medicine that have failed, for whatever reason, to secure a place at a medical school in the US. As a viable alternative the Caribbean colleges are very attractive in such circumstances, and the loans make the prospect of pursuing a medical course of study a reality for thousands of US students. The Academic Medicine journal published by the Association of American Medical Colleges reported in 2010 that since the year 2000, 24 medical schools have opened in the Caribbean with only four actually qualifying for federal finance.
David Longanecker, the president of Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, held the post of Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Education during the 1990’s. He comments, “This is a shenanigan on the part of both institutions to play the US Department of Education…this is clearly a conduit for federal assistance for unauthorized institutions.”
That may well be a valid comment, but it is a fact that many students are enabled to pursue their chosen career that might otherwise be excluded from doing so. Many international medical graduates that are schooled abroad often apply to live and work in the US or if already US citizens move back to the US to practice.