Med School Enrollment Growth Target in Reach

Medical school enrollment is on track to reach a 30% increase by 2016; however, reaching that target is dependent upon seven applicant and candidate medical schools that are in the pipeline

Medical school enrollment is on track to reach a 30% increase by 2016, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual Medical School Enrollment Survey. However, reaching that target is dependent upon seven applicant and candidate medical schools that are in the pipeline. Without those schools, enrollment won’t reach a 30% increase until after 2020.

Given the expected 90,000 physician shortage by 2020, the AAMC had called for the 30% enrollment increase back in 2006. As of the 2011-2012 academic school year, medical school enrollment has increased by 16.6% over the 2002 level.

“U.S. medical schools are doing all that they can to address a serious future physician shortage in this country. We’re pleased to see that enrollment continues to grow, both through the expansion of existing medical schools and the establishment of new ones,” said AAMC President and Chief Executive Officer Darrell G. Kirch, MD, in a statement.

D.O. enrollment has risen rapidly, with expected first-year enrollment for 2016-2017 double what enrollment was in 2002-2003.

The survey also broke enrollment growth out among how long the school has been accredited. The most growth (58%) will occur in the medical schools that were already accredited in 2002; 25% will occur in schools accredited after 2002; and 17% of the growth is expected to occur in schools that are currently applicant or candidate schools. Meeting the 30% growth rate in 2016 is dependent on the enrollment from that 17%.

In its enrollment predictions for 2011, the AAMC actually underestimated the growth of the new schools. However, it also overestimated enrollment at the 125 schools accredited before 2002, thus making the overall prediction almost exact.

The lower than expected enrollment rate for the 125 schools could be due to the weak economy. Roughly half of the schools in the survey said they were concerned with their ability to maintain or increase enrollment because of the economic environment.

Lastly, despite the good news that enrollment is on target, there is the concern about the number of residency positions available. According to Kirch, the increased growth in enrollment to meet the physician shortage “won’t amount to a single new doctor in practice without an expansion of residency positions.”