May 30, 2013.
Enrollment has increased significantly in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health.
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The University of California has issued a report that highlights some of the recent trends associated with the rapid growth in health professional schools and enrollment.
Enrollment in U.S. health professional schools has increased significantly in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health, according to the report, “A New Era of Growth: A Closer Look at Recent Trends in Health Professions Education.” For example, there has been unprecedented growth in total U.S. pharmacy student enrollment through expansion of existing programs and the establishment of new schools. Since 2005 alone, the number of accredited pharmacy schools has risen 48 percent (87 to 129).
The total enrollment and number of new U.S. medical schools also has increased. More striking, however, has been the rapid growth in the number of for-profit international medical schools located in the Caribbean and seeking to attract U.S. students. Growth has been more moderate in dentistry, optometry and veterinary medicine.
The report describes some of the changes in health professions education since 2007, when UC issued “A Compelling Case for Growth,” an in-depth review of health workforce needs as part of a systemwide planning effort that helped pave the way for enrollment growth at all five of UC’s longstanding medical schools, establishment of a new nursing school at UC Davis, and the recent accreditation and establishment of UC’s sixth school of medicine at UC Riverside.
The new report reviews the seven fields in which UC has health professional schools. The report also identifies trends and provides information by profession about the number of schools and enrollment in California and nationally. Information regarding current tuition levels by institution also is included.
“As the nation’s largest health sciences instructional program, UC has an important role to play in informing the public about the state of health professions education,” said Dr. Cathryn Nation, UC associate vice president for health sciences. “The ‘New Era of Growth’ report provides a valuable snapshot of trends that deserve our attention and further discussion.”
Trends identified in the report include:
- Rapid growth in educational programs and total enrollment. Since 2007, the number of U.S. schools in the seven health professions surveyed has grown by 48 percent (865 to 1,283). As a result, enrollment has increased by 34 percent (252,484 to 339,107), with the majority of this growth taking place primarily in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and public health.
- Development of new programs and business models. For-profit schools and programs have proliferated, both in the U.S. and the Caribbean, where 22 of the 61 medical schools admitted their first classes in the past decade. Non-research institutions have added new schools of pharmacy and dentistry. Accelerated and alternate-entry programs have grown, particularly in nursing. Professional doctorates have increased, as have programs that deliver education online, with growth in online public health programs.
- Rising student costs and indebtedness. Between 2005 and 2010, UC medical schools experienced a nearly 50 percent increase, on average, in the four-year cost of attendance. Not surprisingly, student debt also is rising. Viewed over a longer period, the increase is even more dramatic. The total cost of attendance has increased for all UC professional degree programs, posing new challenges for students interested in pursuing careers in public service. For example, the average educational debt of veterinary medicine graduates (excluding undergraduate loans) at UC Davis nearly quadrupled from $29,770 in 1993 to $118,772 in 2011.
Recent growth at UC
Across the UC system, relatively modest, planned enrollment growth in medical student enrollment has occurred over the past decade. This has occurred through new UC Programs in Medical Education (PRIME) that focus on the needs of medically underserved communities. Through this special initiative, UC boosted total medical student enrollment by approximately 350 students across the UC system. However, most of this growth, and most that is occurring in nursing, has been unfunded by the state. Major multiyear budget cuts and a lack of state funding also contributed to a delay in the opening of UC Riverside’s new school of medicine, which will welcome its first class of 50 students in fall 2013.
Looking toward the future
Notwithstanding the growth in enrollment and establishment of new schools across the U.S., workforce shortages persist in many health professions, including medicine, public health and others — needs that will increase dramatically as provisions of health care reform take effect. The balance is currently shifting for some professions. In pharmacy, for instance, the profession has experienced such rapid growth in recent years that some estimates suggest a total national supply of pharmacists that may outpace future demand. Amid these many changes, it will be important to monitor the impact that the new schools and programs make, with particular attention to issues of quality, cost and student success, according to the report.
“As the higher education community plans for the future, the importance of maintaining educational quality, improving access and affordability for students, and improving access and health outcomes for patients are among the central goals that must remain in focus,” the report states.
About UC Health
University of California Health includes five academic health centers with 10 hospitals and 18 health professional schools and programs on seven UC campuses — UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco. For more information, visit http://health.universityofcalifornia.edu.