Dean Silva takes steps to help new students with cost of education
The dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine is no stranger to the difficulties students face in
paying for an education. While a budding student, Joseph Silva Jr. faced a very real possibility of missing
out on college and medical school.
"My parents had very limited means, so I went through college and medical school on scholarships from
many people," said Silva. Through the generous support of two individuals, a bank president from his hometown
and Col. Robert Wood Johnson, founder of Johnson & Johnson, Silva was able to achieve his goal of becoming
Students 40 years later are facing perhaps even greater financial pressures.
"It's going to be very difficult for medical students to go into primary care because tuitions are going
up and up and up," he said.
This year alone, tuition rose at the UC Davis School of Medicine from $10,000 to $17,000 a year. For
a school nationally recognized for excellence in training primary care physicians, the increase was necessary
to continue providing a comprehensive medical education.
Nationally, the average hike in student tuition at public medical schools was 16.5 percent over the past
two years. Fee revenue last year alone grew 3.5 percent across the country.
Tuition increases stem from the erosion of public support in the form of stipends and grants. Budget
deficits at the state and national level exert additional pressure on students and programs, diminishing
the public sector's ability to support aspiring medical students. A yearlong decline in the stock market
also diluted corporate and foundation support for both individual students and programs.
"This year, the university has less support from the state and, of course, we have to balance our costs,"
Silva said. "The only way we can do this is by increasing tuition. I think our students will come with
a larger debt load from college and have to take on in- creasing rates for medical school."
Growing financial demands placed on most medical students mean tremendous debt burdens, or the choice
of another career altogether. Despite historically low interest rates and federal loan programs, a UC
Davis student enrolling in the class of 2007 will pay about $29,000 per year, including more than $11,000
in books, living expenses, fees and transportation. At the end of his or her training, he or she can expect
to carry debt somewhere between $60,000 and $90,000, with some students owing more than $100,000. UC Davis
is well below the national average in student debt for a medical education of $95,000.
The school must compete with private and public universities for the best students using both quality
of education and cost, placing greater pressure on UC Davis and other schools for a dwindling number of
It may be a drop in the bucket, but one of the dean's most enduring lessons may be in the form of a recent
change to his will. Silva became a potential new source of funding for those driven to serve their community
in the practice of medicine. He recently modified his will to ensure that monies will be set aside for
UC Davis. The funds will be applied solely to scholarships.
Silva views this bequest as an opportunity to give back to a profession he loves and a school where he
has built a successful 24-year career, first as professor and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine
and then, seven years ago, as dean of the medical school. It's also a way for Silva to ensure that the
legacy of his sponsors, and their generosity, continues.
"Everyone knows you can't take it with you, so it's best to put it in a place where it will do some good,"
Silva said. "I'd like to leave a legacy for future medical students, and enable them to get the best possible
education in primary care medicine right here at UC Davis."