Perhaps no one else in America has helped more Ross University grads figure out their student loans than I have. Ross provides a path to getting your MD or DVM, but that path comes at a high cost. In my view, Ross University does little to warn students of the high loan burden they will face at graduation.
Ross University produces a lot of great physicians and veterinarians. This isn’t me questioning the education so much as the cost.
As I’ll show you later, it’s not unusual to come out of Ross owing more than $400,000 for vet school and more than $500,000 for medical school. In many cases, you will be unable to pay that amount of debt back without federal forgiveness and repayment plans.
This post is my own opinion, but I’ll back it up with some cold hard facts. If you’re currently dealing with student loans from Ross University, you can check out how I help professionals with high debt loads from medical and veterinary school here.
What is Ross University?
Forgive me if you already know, but Ross University is a for-profit institution located on two separate islands in the Caribbean. They offer DVM degrees through the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts and MD degrees through the Ross University School of Medicine, which used to be in Dominica and now is in Barbados.
Ross got bought in 2003 by DeVry, a giant for-profit college chain. DeVry rebranded itself as Adtalem Global Education, Inc. You can find them trading on the NYSE under the ticker ATGE.
Why is any of that relevant to you? It’s because Ross University wants to make as much money as possible, and you’re the profit center.
That creates a ton of incentives to not be transparent.
Ross University cost of attendance is well hidden
I had to go digging, but I found an estimate for two semesters’ worth of Ross University med school cost on the financial aid section of their site.
If you simply multiply this figure by 4, then you’d assume that you would find a fair estimate of the cost at $309,208. Our average Ross med school client owes far more than that.
Unfortunately, cost of attendance estimates are usually wrong (this is for most institutions). You must adjust for accrued interest and increases in the cost of attendance. In fairness, Ross did say on their literature that cost was subject to change. How nice.
Ross University vet school cost is not clearly stated. Ross simply lists the price for one semester of tuition, which happens to be around $20,000.
My rule of thumb is to take any program’s cost estimates and multiply by 1.25. You’ll get a more accurate guess that way by accounting for hidden costs.
Stats about Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine
|Ross Vet School Stats||2015||2018|
|% Graduating on Time||73%||59%|
The most troubling part of these stats is the percent of students graduating in the 42-month program time frame. It seems clear that the success rate of entering Ross vet school students is declining. Perhaps this is because of increased admissions or something else.
Stats about Ross University School of Medicine
I looked everywhere for stats about completion rates earlier than 2018, but there were a bunch of redirects set up on the med school website that made it difficult. It seems clear though that the number of students graduating in four years has declined as well.
Also, the small reported student debt increase puzzles me unless the school tried to admit students that could pay without borrowing to make the statistics look better.
|Ross Med School Stats||2015||2018|
|% Graduating on Time||N/A||54%|
The actual cost of Ross University that I’ve encountered
There are a lot of ways to massage statistics so that they paint a rosy picture. A fact sheet published by Ross made no mention of the terrible completion rate but touted the school’s 0.7% default rate compared to the national average of 11.3%.
To that I say, OF COUSE! If you’re smart enough to survive and graduate Ross Medical School or Vet School, you’re going to learn about Public Service Loan Forgiveness, income-driven repayment, and forgiveness options, and cutting costs on interest through refinancing.
This is one example of highly misleading admissions materials that I found while researching this post. If the school wanted to be fair, they would compare default rates only among other medical schools and veterinary schools, and they would look at the percent of students actually paying down at least $1 of the principal within 3 years.
Here are the actual student loan balances I’ve seen from Ross University graduates who booked a plan with me.
|Ross University Program||Average Debt|
|Veterinary Medicine (DVM)||$390,000|
|Medical School (MD)||$498,000|
*These numbers represent Student Loan Planner clients only
One explanation for these numbers is that some professionals contact us a few years after graduation. You might not have thought about your loans the first day after graduation of course. That’s when Ross reports their data to the Department of Education.
Ironically, ever since the school has been able to tap federal student loans, costs have continued to soar while students feel less of the actual expense. That’s because Ross students used to rely heavily on private loans. Federal loans now offered to students have more generous repayment options.
Ross University must pay for placements
Since Ross isn’t affiliated with any teaching hospitals, the school must pay for clinical rotations in the US. Many Caribbean programs like St. George’s have this same issue.
Not long ago, Ross paid $35 million for rotation slots in Kern County, California for its med students. I expect the vet school makes big payments to American vet schools for students’ clinical year in the US.
Dealing with Ross University student loans
As an example, pretend Maggie graduates Ross med school with $425,000 of student debt and Enrique leaves with $350,000 from vet school, all at 7% interest. Both ignore their loans for the first couple of years after graduation.
Forbearance, capitalization, and interest growth happen, and now Maggie owes $484,500 and Enrique owes $399,000.
Maggie the Ross pediatrician
Maggie works as a pediatrician in a big hospital system in Atlanta, and Enrique works at a VCA clinic in St. Louis.
Maggie is eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. She has one year left of residency at a $60,000 salary. She then earns an attending income of $160,000, adjusted upwards for inflation. Here’s PSLF vs private refinancing at 5%.
(10 year at 5%)
Clearly, PSLF has massive savings over refinancing. However, there are so many ways Maggie could save money, it’s not even funny. She could’ve started making payments earlier, consolidated her loans strategically, or focused on retirement savings.
We didn’t even model the impact of getting married. Let’s look at Enrique the veterinarian now.
Enrique the Ross veterinarian
Since Enrique works at VCA, a private employer, he must pay over 20 years under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan. He must also pay taxes on the forgiven balance. This is a big difference to what Maggie experiences since she works at a not for profit employer.
Take a look at the 220-year cost below, assuming Enrique earns $75,000 per year an remains single.
(10 year at 5%)
Enrique is obviously better off paying a total of $475,227 over 20 years instead of $519,013.
Getting custom help understanding Ross University student debt
I don’t believe you can trust a for-profit school to act in your best interest.
Financial aid, admissions, and administration answer to the owners of the school and Wall Street. They’re probably good people, but their incentives are not aligned to make sure you get the best advice on your financial future.
If the school brings in a group to give a presentation, that group can’t risk offending the school since they’re the ones paying the bills.
That’s why I work directly for borrowers like you to avoid this conflict of interest (I’m assuming Ross won’t be inviting me to speak anytime soon). I prefer to talk one on one and create custom plans instead of giving generic tips about how to pay back med or vet school loans.
If you’re trying to figure out how to pay hundreds of thousands of student debt from Ross University, my team and I would love to make a plan for you and hopefully save you a lot of money projected over the life of your loan repayment.
In the examples above, I didn’t include real-life issues that come up when figuring out student debt, like getting married, switching from a for profit to not for profit job, starting your own practice, taking time away from work, moving from full time to part time or back, and more.
These are scenarios we try to answer for you with our student loan planning service, and we’ve advised hundreds of millions since we started.
The reason I wrote this article is because:
- Ross University grads are among our most frequent clients, and more probably need our advice
- For profit universities deserve public scrutiny, especially with completion rates for degree programs falling.
You either worked your tail off and graduated or are stuck with a bunch of debt from a degree you didn’t complete.
Whether you worked your tail off and graduated on time or only stayed a semester, we’re extremely interested in getting you on the road to financial success if you have student debt from Ross.
The good news is I’ve never met someone who was beyond help, no matter how high your student loan balance ended up being.
What’s your opinion of Ross University and the cost of attendance? Share your opinion below!