For the fourth year in a row, applications to the University”s Medical School have declined, from 4,949 applicants in 2000 to 4,688 applicants in 2001. The 5.3 percent decrease is greater than the nationwide decline of 4 percent in 2001.

For female applicants, the decline is less than 1 percent, while the number of minority applicants has actually risen by about 2 percent, said Barbara Barzansky, author of the recent American Medical Association report that outlines the decline.

The strong economy of the last few years and rising student debt have been named as potential factors in the decline, said Katie Horne, director of admissions for the University”s Medical School.

“It”s hard to say what the change in economy will do to the applicant pool,” Horne said.

She said that the number of applicants has fluctuated in cycles of four to five years, at least during the last two decades.

The last big decline was in the late 1980s, with a large increase in applications in the early 1990s.

Nationally, there are still about twice as many applicants as open spaces in medical schools, so the applicant pool is still strong and large, Horne said.

“There are a number of factors in the decline,” Barzansky said.

“The economy, as well as the health care environment being what it is, many young people are being advised not to go into medicine.”

According to AMA figures, the average debt for a medical student is $93,000.

That figure can more than double by the time it”s paid off, depending on the terms of the loans, Barzansky said.

“One of the things that”s mentioned in national circles that I”ve noticed is trying to come to grips with the cost of medical school. Our dean is quite concerned about that and is already taking some action by increasing our scholarship funds,” said Horne.

Rackham student Christina Yee said she knew someone who was going to attend medical school but instead went to work on Wall Street.

“I think there were a couple of factors, but earning money as opposed to going into a lot of debt had something to do with it,” Yee said.

Horne added that while the numbers are declining, the applicants who are applying are consistently strong.

“If the pool dropped another several years and we also saw a quality decrease, then I think we”d really have to assess where we were,” Horne said.

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