Albert Einstein College of Medicine offers free tuition, after billion-dollar gift

Eva Rothenberg, CNN | 2/26/2024, 1:17 p.m.
Students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York will receive free tuition after a $1 billion dollar …
The Albert Einstein College of Medicine just received one of the largest ever charitable gifts to an educational institution in the United States. Mandatory Credit: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

Students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York will receive free tuition after a $1 billion dollar donation from a former faculty member.

Dr. Ruth Gottesman, 93, who spent 55 years as the chair of the school’s board, made the historic donation in the name of her late husband, David “Sandy” Gottesman, who was an early investor of Berkshire Hathaway and a longtime friend of Berkshire’s famed CEO Warren Buffett.

Philip Ozuah, president and CEO of Montefiore Medicine, the school’s parent company, announced the “transformational gift” on Monday, saying that “this is the largest donation to any medical school in the country.”

Sandy Gottesman, who was the co-founder of New York-based investment firm First Manhattan Co., died in 2022.

The Gottesmans had long been involved in health care philanthropy. In 2010, their gift of $25 million to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine went towards creating the school’s Institute for Stem Cell Research and Regenerative Medicine. Sandy Gottesman also served on the board of New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

“I am very thankful to my late husband, Sandy, for leaving these funds in my care, and l feel blessed to be given the great privilege of making this gift to such a worthy cause,” said Dr. Ruth Gottesman in a news release.

Dr. Ruth Gottesman joined the medical school in 1968 and developed screening, evaluation and treatments for children with learning disabilities. In 1992, she founded the Adult Literacy Program at Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, “the first of its kind.” She also served as the founding director of the school’s Emily Fisher Landau Center for the Treatment of Learning Disabilities, which opened in 1997.

Few educational donations rival the magnitude of Dr. Ruth Gottesman’s. In 2018, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $1.8 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University. And New York hospitals have long drawn the philanthropy of billionaires, with individual donations sometimes amounting to more than $100 million. Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone has heavily invested in New York University’s medical centers. In 2018, in part due to Langone’s donations, NYU’s School of Medicine became the first medical school in the country to offer free tuition to accepted students.

An October survey from the Association of American Medical Colleges found that 70% of medical students who graduated in 2023 have taken on some level of education debt. The average graduate left medical school owing more than $200,000, according to the AAMC.

“This donation radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission, not just those who can afford it,” said Dr. Yaron Tomer, the dean at Albert Einstein. “We will be reminded of the legacy this historic gift represents each spring as we send another diverse class of physicians out across the Bronx and around the world to provide compassionate care and transform their communities.”

The donation is meant to attract “talented and diverse” students, who otherwise might not have the opportunity to pursue a medical education, the school said in the release. “It will enable generations of healthcare leaders who will advance the boundaries of research and care, free from the burden of crushing loan indebtedness.”

Students in their fourth year will be reimbursed for the spring 2024 semester. In August, when the fall semester begins, all students will receive free tuition.