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Alaska may become the first state to cut funding for medical school education. Currently, the state pays a little less than $40,000 for each of its 80 residents at University of Washington. Additionally, the University of Alaska chips in about $10,000 for each of those students.

Interestingly, the reason the funding is on the chopping block is the return rate. The state government is concerned the return rate is ‘only’ 61%. (In other words, 61% of the funded Alaskans return to the state to practice medicine.) However, the national return rate average is a relatively paltry 31%.

We did a quick Internet search. According to Wikipedia, Alaska’s state budget is $10.1 billion. Cutting this funding would save $3.2 million. That is to say the WWAMI funding represents 0.0317% of the state budget. Is this potential savings worth risking a more severe physician shortage? What if Alaska wants to reverse course in a few years and can’t immediately get those seats back from University of Washington? Obviously, starting a new medical school takes several years even in the best of circumstances.

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