New York University has announced this week that its School of Medicine will provide free tuition for all present and future students.

Citing the risk of “overwhelming” debt, it says every student will qualify regardless of merit or financial need. NYU said financial worries were driving graduates to more lucrative specialties, pushing doctors away from more general positions.

The scholarship covers annual tuition costs of up to $55,000, however, fees such as books and room and board are not covered.

NYU School of Medicine made the surprise announcement at its annual White Coat Ceremony on Thursday – when new students receive a white lab coat as they begin their studies.

A study produced by the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated that in 2017 75% of medical students graduated in debt. Graduates move towards higher-paying areas of medicine over pediatrics, primary care or gynecology due to their “staggering student loans”.

NYU is now the only top 10 U.S. medical school to offer free tuition.