Nightly News   |  May 17, 2013

UCF med students graduate debt free

Four years ago when UCF had just broken ground on its medical school, it offered free tuition and a stipend for living expenses to lure the best and brightest students. Now those students are graduating and heading off to prestigious residency programs. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> as you may know in your family it's graduation season. today was graduation day for medical students who took a chance four years ago and tonight it's paying off big time . nbc's kerry sanders was with them today in orlando where they say they have an extra reason to celebrate.

>> reporter: the class of 2013 , but unlike most medical students the 36 who graduated at the university of central florida today are debt-free.

>> i'm much more relieved than other medical students . i don't have hundreds of thousands of dollars hanging over my head as soon as i graduate.

>> reporter: it was a gamble four years ago. ucf had just broken ground on the med school . it had no accreditation, no faculty, no students. how best to lure the nation's best and brightest to an unknown school? give each medical student free tuition and cover all their living expenses.

>> if we didn't have the scholarships we would be likely to attract students who couldn't get in anywhere else because we are an untested medical school .

>> reporter: romeo joseph could have gone just about anywhere. but being debt-free was a strong lure. the american medical association say it says the average medical student in the united states leaves college $200,000 in debt.

>> normally if you look at the repayment for that, say you owe a quarter million, you pay $ 1700 , $ 1800 a month for 30 years.

>> reporter: on match day recently -- that med school tradition where students find out where they will begin their residency, confirmation. the $8 million it cost the university was money well spent.

>> congratulations.

>> reporter: graduates are going to some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the nation. with the gift of a free education they say comes the responsibility to donate their newly earned skills.

>> each one of us has been instilled with a sense of wanting to be able to give back.

>> reporter: operation debt free. the rarest of medical school procedures. kerry sanders , nbc news, orlando.