Many of the students are also from outside West Virginia, Getson said, so they pay a higher tuition and therefore incur more debt. The school has 255 resident students and 582 nonresidents.
Marshall's medical school had been on probation by its accrediting body, the Liaison Committee for Medical Education, because its graduates' debts once exceeded the national average. But a new dean hired last year began pushing for more scholarship awards, giving out $1.93 million for the 2012-13 school year, said spokeswoman Linda Holmes.
About 65 percent of Marshall medical school students receive scholarships of about $10,000 apiece.
Ferrari said tuition is always increasing at WVU, where debt is also growing because many students are nontraditional -- older, sometimes married and with children. They take on more debt, he said, because they need more cash to support their families while they forgo jobs.
WVU offers debt management training, providing students annual notices with their accrued totals.
Some doctors join the military to help pay off their loans, Ferrari said, but that doesn't help rural communities that need physicians.
"Once they've been stationed in Germany or Hawaii,'' he said, "it may be difficult to get them back.''