Robert Brent, M.D., a 1953 graduate of the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry, has an ambitious goal.

In 30 years time he is hoping that, with his donation of $3 million to the Alumni Free Tuition Plan, tuition to the medical school will be free of charge.

The plan involves a $3 million donation by Brent and his wife Lillian and donations that could potentially reach $2 million from School of Medical alumni. This will be invested in the University’s endowment, and compounded interest could generate enough revenue to offset tuition costs down the road.

Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry David Guzick commended Brent’s potential solution to the problem of student debt.

‘I thought it was a novel approach,” he said. ‘This is a long-term plan that will allow us to build up our investments, rather than giving away currently without making any money on them.”

‘It has been projected that medical school could cost $120,000 per year in 30 years. No one would be able to afford it,” Guzick said.

This $5 million donation would be invested in the University’s endowment. According to Guzick, UR allows the School of Medicine to take out accumulated interest of up to 5.5 percent of this $5 million invested annually.

This amounts to $275,000 generated in interest every year.

This $275,000 is akin to a class gift and would be placed into a starting scholarship fund for each medical school graduating class. Each graduating class, roughly 100 students, has contributed on average $20,000 per year.

These contributions would go toward these scholarship funds. Historically, these funds earn an eight percent return on their investment.

Brent’s hope is that in 30 years, with compounded interest, the size of each graduating class’s scholarship fund will be $5 million.

In theory, with new scholarship funds created annually, these funds would be able to cover medical school tuition from then on.

The class of 2010 will probably be the first to contribute to the Alumni Free Tuition Plan. Donations by alumni toward this program total about $240,000 so far, according to Director of Advancement at the School of Medicine Mary Ann Kiely.

‘There won’t be $5 million invested initially, but it will expand,” Guzick said.

Brent also noted that the size of the pool will expand over time.

‘The University is only allowed to withdraw 5.5 percent interest per year,” he said. ‘If the return is higher, then the extra money will be reinvested the following year. This $5 million principle will expand and could be $10-12 million in 30 years.”

Brent recognized the need for alumni participation in the fundraising process. He also noted that it could be economically advantageous for alumni to donate.

‘For example, if someone bought a stock and made $8,000 on it, when they go to sell it, they would have to pay a capital gains tax on it,” he said. ‘But if they were to put it in a trust for the school, they wouldn’t have to pay that tax.”

He said he would work closely with the School of Medicine staff to ensure alumni participation, but he added, ‘If people are willing to donate, they definitely can.”

The Alumni Free Tuition Plan has a long-term focus, but alumni donations to short-term goals are still prevalent. Alumni have donated over $23 million in the past four years in an increased effort to offset the student debt problem. The School of Medicine gave out about $3.5 million in financial aid this year and 52 percent of medical students receive some sort of institutional scholarship.

Although the program could potentially increase applications, Guzick disputed the notion that this was the reason the program was designed.

‘We had over 4,000 applications last year for 100 slots,” he said. ‘This program is not designed to increase the competition in the admissions process.”

Willis is a member of the class of 2011.

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