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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — You want to be a doctor, but your GPA blows and your MCAT score isn't bailing you out.

Not to worry.

You can still head to some of the biggest little medical schools in the Caribbean, 1,500 miles off the Florida coast where they'll take you even when American medical schools won't. And they do it using tax dollars through federal student loans. One of them, Ross University Medical School, has been in business since 1978.

Ross and four others have been identified by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) in a bill introduced last week to close a loophole that gives special treatment to these Caribbean medical schools, who cashed in on over $450 million in Department of Education Title IV funding last year.

The Foreign Medical School Accountability Act would require five Caribbean medical schools - four of which are for-profit institutions - to meet the same minimum requirements that every other medical school outside of the U.S. and Canada must meet in order to receive federal funding. All off-shore schools would be required to have 60% non-U.S. citizen enrollment and a 75% pass rate on the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.

"Congress has failed taxpayers and students by subsidizing these Caribbean schools with billions in federal dollars for years without adequate accountability and oversight," said Durbin. "Despite not meeting these minimum standards, the biggest three for-profit schools impacted by my bill - St. George's, Ross, and American University of the Caribbean - have taken in two-thirds of federal funding that went to foreign medical schools. These schools are just another example of the systemic problem we have with for-profit colleges trying to make a profit off of the federal taxpayers while saddling students with questionable degrees and unreasonable debt loads that follow them for the rest of their lives."

Off-shore medical schools have long been thought to be the purveyors of sub-standard education.

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In 1978 New York commodities trader Robert Ross opened a medical school--Ross University--in Dominica, an island in the Lesser Antiles region of the Caribbean Sea, after an employee complained that his son couldn't get into a stateside medical school. Some 22 years later, a group of New York investors bought the med school and a veterinary school, then sold it to DeVry in 2003 for just over $300 million.

In 2009, the Tampa Tribune reported that DeVry, better known for trade schools that concentrated on information technology, reported $165.7 million in after-tax income in 2008. But the company also reported an additional $140 million in tax-free income from the Ross med school operations.

Fast forward to September 2013.

Bloomberg Markets reported that two DeVry-owned foreign med schools – American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) and Ross University School of Medicine – continue to make hay by admitting hundreds of U.S. med school rejects. Student debt at AUC averages $253,000 compared to U.S. medical schools where the average is $170,000. DeVry's schools are approved by the Department of Education's National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation, which reviews standards to accredit schools in foreign countries and determines whether they stack up to their American counterparts. At the end of the day--and for years on end--these off shore schools have been getting a pass.

The attrition rate at U.S. medical schools averages 3% annually. At DeVry's two Caribbean medical schools it's 20% at AUC and 27% at Ross. DeVry graduates often have difficulty finding a residency – mandatory for practicing medicine in the United States. In 2013, graduates trained by these schools had a residency match rate of 53% compared to 94% of graduates of U.S. medical schools—probably because their hope of ever practicing medicine was slim in the first place. Taxpayers pay the freight.

"The only thing harder than graduating with four years of medical school debt is not graduating and still having one or two years of medical school debt from these schools," said Durbin. "I have a message for those schools down in the sunny Caribbean who may have thought they could continue to exploit taxpayers and students without anybody noticing – Congress is watching."

But can they do more than watch? Durbin spokesperson Christina Mulka stopped short of saying that the goal was to shut these schools down but said that the Durbin bill would be a significant step toward curbing these abuses. A Department of Education spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

--Written by John Sandman for MainStreet