First-year enrollment in U.S. medical schools is projected to increase 17% over the next 5 years to nearly 19,300 students, helping to ameliorate the real need for new physicians, according to an annual survey of medical-school expansion plans released by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The estimated expansion would move U.S. medical schools past the halfway point of a 30% enrollment increase recommended by the AAMC in 2006.
The survey of 121 out of 125 U.S. medical-school deans took place last fall, and the information gathered was compared with that of the baseline academic year of 2002–2003, when first-year enrollment totaled 16,488 students.
Survey results indicated that total first-year enrollment in existing U.S. medical schools is projected to increase by 2,558 students (15.5%) by 2012.
Three-quarters of existing medical schools anticipate an increase, compared with 2002 enrollment levels.
However, the report notes that many of these planned increases depend on state support or other outside funding sources. Projected enrollment for new medical schools accounts for an additional 1.5% of the total 17% expansion.
According to the survey, existing U.S. medical schools that are planning to expand will do so through a variety of mechanisms, including new clinical affiliations, expansion of existing campuses, and new regional or branch campuses.
Survey respondents also listed several barriers to enrollment increases, including the cost of such expansion, limited scholarship availability, tight classroom space, and too few ambulatory preceptors. A smaller number of schools reported a lack of basic science faculty, low numbers or variety of patients, problems with regulatory or accreditation requirements, and poor quality applicants as major barriers.
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