Geffen gives UCLA $100 million for scholarships

A student walks near Royce Hall on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, Calif.

The UC system's "controversial" new logo.

Medical students go deep in the hole for their M.D. degrees.

And the logic goes that those students, saddled with loan payments for decades, won't serve low income communities, but will instead end up as plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills.

Philanthropist David Geffen gave UCLA's medical school $100 million today to fully fund the educations of about 30 new doctors per year, starting in the 2013-14 school year. The money will be used for scholarships that will pay for everything from tuition to housing, freeing those select students from debt.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block called Geffen's gift "visionary."

"If [new doctors] want to practice in a rural area, they can feel free to do that," says Block. "They don't have to worry about paying off debt. I think it allows some of our most creative students an opportunity to do good in new and important ways because of their freedom from acquired loans."

When asked to comment on the newly redesigned UC logo, Block simply called it "controversial."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

The UC system's "controversial" new logo.

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This is fantastic! The high cost of medical school is a huge barrier to talented students of lesser means. We need more of this type of philanthropy. Kudos to Mr.Geffen.

Yes, it is great that David Geffen has done this.

But, I see something wrong with this, too. Individuals have been allowed to accumulate vast amounts of wealth this past generation because of an outrageously favorable tax system. Suddenly, they control who gets help, instead of the government.

I think we should tax the rich a whole lot more, and let the government decide who gets the help; that way, it should get distributed more widely and more fairly...at least, that is the hope.

The logo? It's cropped off on the Marketplace page.

I applaud Mr. Geffen's spirit, generosity, and vision. I wish more 1%ers would follow his lead and put more of their resources into similar initiatives for the public good.

Still, it seems to me that Mr. Geffen and UCLA could have been more creative if they wanted to construct an incentive for Geffen scholarship doctors to graduate with zero debt and thereby be able to go into less-remunerative practice areas if and as they so choose.

Rather than offering scholarships to any student regardless of where and what they practice, the Geffen endowment could be focused solely on those UCLA students who specifically choose to practice in third world contexts or in service of economically-disadvantaged regions or neighborhoods in this country.

Doctors are going to pay off their grad school debt -- just as all of us do who go to grad school and then enter less lucrative professions. If UCLA and Mr. Geffen really want to make a lasting difference, then maybe a second endowed program (created by Mr. Geffen or another donor of similar spirit) can specifically focus on turning out a legion of medical professionals who are, to a person, intent on caring for those who truly are the least and the last.

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