The University of Washington School of Dentistry has a great reputation for producing highly-competent dentists. But UW is also a financial train wreck. UW School of Dentistry tuition for in-state students grew at one of the fastest rates in the country out of 66 dental schools in the past 10 years. UW had the second largest tuition dollar increase of any dental school other than the University of the Pacific.
UW’s dental school used to be one of the most affordable. Now it’s in the top third most expensive for in state and top 10% most expensive for out of state. What happened? And how can you manage your dental school debt from UW?
University of Washington dental school tuition over time
Check out this data from the American Dental Association (ADA) showing first-year dental school tuition since 2007-08. I chose these numbers because data was available for a full decade. If you look at second-year tuition, the numbers are about $8,000 higher for in state and $13,000 for out of state.
|University of Washington |
Dental School Tuition
A short history of UW School of Dentistry’s financial problems
Back in 2007, UW received significantly more state funds. From peak to trough, public support for the university declined more than 50%. Some of this public financial support has come back, but not all.
So you’d expect a greater-than-inflation-level increase to make up the difference. But the tuition increases at UW aren’t solely from loss of public funds.
Part of the problem stems from declining Medicaid reimbursement. The UW Medical Center has also had major financial challenges, mainly due to falling reimbursement rates from Medicaid.
But even these two strong headwinds don’t explain the full tuition increase and multimillion dollar deficit the UW dental school has.
Many in the media cite the opening of a center for pediatric dentistry in Sand Point that became a black hole of financial losses. Joel Berg, the dental-school dean who supported this plan, resigned amid a $36 million deficit for the school. The new interim dean resigned shortly after that. The University of Washington dental school is now on its third dean in less than two years.
That’s how you get one of the fastest growing tuition rates in the country.
Projected cost of University of Washington dental school
Even though I’ve cited their poor financial management, UW will get you your Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree. It has a low class size of 63 for the class of 2022 compared to a degree factory like the New York University dental school.
Even though $55,000 is a lot to pay for tuition, it’s still tens of thousands less for in-state students compared to the most expensive private schools.
Of course, you’ll also need to borrow to cover living expenses in Seattle, one of the most expensive cities in the country. Here’s the school estimated total costs for UW dental school for the class that entered in the 2018-19 school year.
|Dental School Cost |
|Class of 2022 |
|Class of 2022 |
I suggest you multiply the costs above by 1.25 to get an estimate that includes loan fees, tuition increases and accrued interest that grows while you’re in school.
Under this assumption, the expected loan balance for a fully-financed University of Washington School of Dentistry education for the Class of 2022 would be $470,264 for in state and $640,969 for out of state.
Huge balances like that are excellent for our student loan consulting business. Borrowers with large balances usually get very stressed by them and are more likely to hire hire planners like us to figure it out. But I’d prefer students to easily refinance their debt and pay it back in only a few years if the balance owed was low.
Is going to University of Washington dental school a good decision?
When you owe more than two times your income in debt, going for forgiveness under an income-driven repayment plan usually makes the most sense. That’s because your debt operates as a tax rather than a debt when you owe a huge amount.
Pretend you lose 10% of your income to your student loan payment under Pay As You Earn or Revised Pay As You Earn. Then you lose another 5% of your income to saving for the tax bomb that comes at the end of 20 to 25 years. Would you rather be a dentist losing 15% of your pay for your education? Or would you rather have a corporate job with only undergrad level debt?
Given Amazon is in Seattle, I’ve heard of at least one UW dental school student dropping out in his first semester to go work for the technology giant instead. Of course, if you’re indifferent between a career in tech or dentistry, I think you’d probably do much better in tech financially.
That said, assuming your career choice is between dentistry and something science-related where you’d make a standard $60,000 to $80,000 with an undergrad degree, taking out $400,000 for a D.D.S. can be a good decision. You lose a percent of your income, but it’s much higher than it would’ve been without the education.
Also, Washington state is a community property state. That means it’s ripe for using the breadwinner loophole with student loans to save money.
We’ve made plans for thousands of borrowers. Getting a D.D.S. from the University of Washington School of Dentistry is a reasonable financial decision for the next decade, mostly because of income-driven repayment strategies. If these did not exist, it would be a terrible decision to get a D.D.S. there.
If you have a lot of UW dental school debt, we’d love to make you a custom plan. Just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think about the University of Washington dental school’s financial problems? Comment below.