Perhaps no one else in the country has counseled more St George’s University graduates than I have on student loans. At Student Loan Planner, we’ve talked to folks in eye-popping amounts of debt. There’s no way that the projected cost of education on the school’s website accurately warns students in my view.
Let me be clear. St George’s in Grenada produces a lot of great doctors and veterinarians. This isn’t me questioning the education so much as the cost.
If you go to St George’s University medical school or veterinary school, you could come out owing more than $400,000. Even with that high of a debt load, there are strategies that I use to help St George’s grads make the most of their lives financially.
That said, this post is entirely my own opinion, but I’ll back it up with some facts. If you’re currently struggling with student loans from St George’s University, or just want to make sure you’re using the best strategy, you can check out how I help professionals with high debt loads from medical and veterinary school here.
St George’s University Tuition and Fees List is Conveniently Hard to Understand
This is true at least for me, and I deal with student loans all day. I’m guessing the average student just looks at it and shrugs their shoulders while signing on the dotted line. Take a look at the cost summary below that I pulled from their website on Sept. 11, 2017:
Any idea how to read this? I’m sure after discussing the numbers with a financial aid officer it might make some more sense. BUT SERIOUSLY! Where’s the big giant number of what you’ll owe at the end of the program?
Most high cost private and public institutions publish a total summed up cost of attendance. Instead, this is the quote they use for the med school cost:
The cost of medical school can be tallied on a calculator, but the return on this investment in medical school is not quantifiable.
St George’s University
YES IT IS! It is VERY quantifiable.
From conversations I’ve had with current SGU students, I’ve learned that the med school kicks a lot of people out for low grades. Is the return on investment still not quantifiable when you have $100,000 of debt and no degree?
I don’t think St George’s University should justify why they’re charging so much to get a high return for their investors (it is a for-profit school after all). They should simply just list the numbers.
Notice How St George’s University Says Tuition Numbers Subject to Change
I’ve spoken with a lot of St George’s alums, and they tell me that their tuition and fees went up every year they were there. So why then, does the cost of attendance suggest a static price for each year in the picture above?
Why shouldn’t the expected tuition and fees at least show a projected yearly increase? Everyone in the world knows that what’s going to happen.
Vet School and Medical School in Grenada Has a High Cost of Living
Nowhere on St George’s website does it show an anticipated student budget. Grenada is a pretty expensive place. Flights home will run you a lot of money. As an example, the cheapest round trip tickets I could find from Grenada to St. Louis (where I live) were $1,000.
Rent might be manageable, but food can be pretty pricey according to SGU student I spoke with. If you’re frugal, sure the total cost might be less than the Northeast or California. Of course, Grenada is also way more expensive than a CVM in the Midwest or Southeast.
If you’re going to SGU for med school or vet school, you’re probably not rich and will need to borrow. So by excluding living expenses from their tuition and fees page, it makes their programs look a lot more reasonable.
Loan Origination Fees and Accrued Interest Not Included Anywhere
I’ve researched dozens of medical and vet schools when it comes to tuition. Most list the anticipated $3,000-$5,000 yearly origination fees for the loans somewhere in the anticipated cost of attendance.
I couldn’t find any evidence of this when searching St George’s University website. Again, this makes the total cost appear to be lower than it actually is.
Also, accrued interest while in school will run tens of thousands of dollars. By not including these expenses, no effort is made to educate students on the real price of attendance.
St George’s University is For Profit, Which Means There’s a Big Incentive to Raise Prices
If loan forgiveness programs exist, why not charge the highest prices the market will accept? After all, you could tell students that “the government will pick up the tab” and “student debt is good debt.”
Many of my competitors charge close to $1,000 for student loan consulting. Maybe I could charge three times what I do today because the market would pay it, but to me, that feels like taking advantage of people.
As long as SGU alums don’t have to write a check for $5,000 each month for 10 years after graduation, the angry blowback from high tuition never happens. Hence, the answer to every question is raise the price and get more money.
The school does perform a legitimate service in educating doctors and veterinarians. SGU has helped thousands of students achieve their professional dreams. I shouldn’t discount that because it wouldn’t be fair.
Even so, there’s no natural roadblock to raising tuition relentlessly. When you consider that St George’s University is owned by for-profit investors, their primary interest is to educate students, keep licensing pass rates high, and charge as much money as possible to do so while keeping the federal loan stream flowing.
What is the Real Cost For Some Recent St George’s Medical School Graduates?
Here’s an example of how the cost listed by the school and the real debt-financed education differ.
Let’s look at the St George’s med school program cost. If I add Terms 1-4 for the Grenada part of the program, and terms 1-4 of the clinical part of the program, I get a total of $215,493.
But that figure doesn’t include living expenses. Conservatively, let’s assume those are $20,000 a year for 4 years of med school. That would bring the total to 5,493.
On top of this, let’s include 4 years of origination fees. If you didn’t know, those would probably average about 3% of this total. Let’s start rounding and say that brings the cost to about $304,000.
Additionally, we have 4 years’ of accrued interest say at 7%. That would run about $30,000 to $40,000, so let’s split the difference and say $35,000. We’re now up to about $339,000.
What have I really seen? More like high 300s to low 400s. We didn’t include all the various books, graduation fees, and more realistic living expenses.
According to my sources, a large number of med school students leave before getting their degree as well. Imagine coming home from a year or two at SGU med school with no degree and a pile of debt. Many people do, and they should disclose that risk in the cost description and not use emotionally manipulative language like “the investment in an MD is not quantifiable.”
It’s certainly quantifiable to the investors who are eager to make millions off of students’ dreams.
What is the Real Cost for Some Recent St George’s Vet School Graduates?
If I sum up the cost of the vet school program at St George’s on their site, I get $180,930.
If you throw on living expenses of $20,000 a year, with accrued interest and origination fees like I did above, I get about $310,000.
Here’s the problem though, with the more recent grads I’ve spoken with who financed their own education entirely, that number has been well over that.
In fairness, I’m not speaking to the lowest debt St George’s grads. If someone only has $100,000 in debt because they received family help, they’re probably using my free cashback refinancing links.
Also, I hear that the vet school has a more supportive culture than the med school at SGU. With each grad guaranteed a clinical spot, there might be lower stress in this regard.
One SGU veterinarian pointed out to me that you could find a place for $500 a month if you tried in Grenada. So if having a low debt load is important to you, I think it’s possible to come out with a low $200,000 ish balance as a vet. You just have to really watch every penny.
Still, the SGU site talks about how their tuition “compares favorably to many in-state vet schools.” If you include all the additional costs of going there, I don’t see how that’s a true statement. Perhaps that should read, we compare favorably to many high cost private and out of state vet school tuitions.”
Why Have my Clients’ Total Costs Deviated from the School’s Published Numbers?
I think that folks are spending more than $20,000 a year on living expenses like I mentioned. The extra St George’s school fees and books probably amount to another $10,000.
Also, we didn’t talk about current students and how they’ll almost certainly owe more than what I’m modeling here because of tuition increases the school will probably make. Add on another 5% per year to the total costs I’m modeling above to get an estimate for the class of 2021.
One clear takeaway I have is that St George’s University does not do a great job of publishing the total loan burden you might have after you graduate. For a for-profit school at a minimum, there should be a prerequisite before obtaining access to the blank check of federal student loans.
My thoughts? I believe the school should do a better job telling applicants what their current students are leaving with in terms of student loan debt. Otherwise, I don’t believe St George’s University deserves access to federal student loans. This is particularly true when the for-profit nature of the school creates a natural incentive to raise the price of fulfilling your professional calling.
St Matthew’s University and Ross University Fall into this Category as Well
From what I’ve seen, Caribbean medical schools and Caribbean vet schools like those at St Matthew’s and Ross University might charge even more.
The takeaway from a policy perspective is maybe it would be a better idea to take some of this federal money and force lower cost US-based schools to accept more students.
At least then the money would stay here in the US, and more physicians and veterinarians could achieve their professional dreams at a fair price.
How to Get Help Post Graduation with St George’s Student Loans
This is the self-interested section where I tell you how great I am and how you should totally hire me to help fix your loan problem.
Here’s the truth, I’m not a magician, but I can create a long-term plan that will give you the confidence that you’re on the best possible path financially. Most of my St George’s University clients were making $10,000+ mistakes with their loan repayment strategy.
I just charge a flat fee to help. Watch out for financial advisors who try to give you whole life insurance as the answer to everything or who won’t admit that student loans aren’t a part of their circle of competence.
Hopefully, this information services as a launching point for some discussion as to the merits of for-profit Caribbean medical schools and Caribbean vet schools receiving federal student loans and why the cost of attendance is so astonishingly high.
Just know that sticking your head in the ground and pretending the loans aren’t there won’t help. Getting a plan will. If you wanted to tell me more about your specific situation, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I answer every email personally.