Medical schools across the country have enrolled over 20,000 students for 2014, the highest number ever, according to new data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The swelling number of enrollees, as well as applicants – which increased by 3.1% – is being attributed to the expansion of the medical school capacity in the U.S. “In spite of the ongoing partisan debate around the nation’s health care system, it is gratifying to see that increasing numbers of students want to become physicians. However, these results show that our nation must act without delay to ensure an adequate number of residency training positions for these aspiring doctors so they will be able to care for our growing and aging population,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D. “As we face a worsening shortage of both primary and specialty physicians over the next two decades, Congress must increase federal support for residency training by lifting the 17-year-old cap on residency training positions imposed under the Balanced Budget Act.”

The findings from AAMC also showed progress towards increasing diversity among the medical student population. Specifically, the number of Hispanic or Latino enrollees increased by 1.8% to 1,859 in 2014, with the number of applicants increasing to 9.7% to 4,386. Furthermore, African American enrollees rose 1.1% to 1,412 while the number of applicants increased by 3.2% to a total of 3,990.

“Medical schools understand that an effective physician workforce is a diverse workforce,” said Kirch. “In addition to schools using new, innovative admissions practices that look at attributes and experiences in addition to grades and test scores, they also are working to strengthen the K-12 pipeline. The gains we are seeing show that we are making progress, but there still needs to be more work done to diversify the talent pool.”