Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Effects of Radiography Program Admissions Practices on Student Retention

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Effects of Radiography Program Admissions Practices on Student Retention

Article excerpt

This study examined the admissions practices of 24-month radiography programs to determine the extent to which the practices affect retention rates. Survey data from 327 programs representing 6,443 radiography program matriculants, 5,191 graduates, and 1,252 withdrawals showed that retention rates were significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher in programs that used a competitive admission process than in those that did not. Also, it was observed that the use of selective grade point average and reference letters in the competitive admission process was significant (p ≤ 0.05) in predicting increased retention rates in a radiography program. J Allied Health 2006; 35:162-168.

WHY DO SOME STUDENTS excel in radiography programs while others struggle? Why do some students remain in a radiography program whereas others leave? Is there a connection between the admissions practices and the attrition rates of radiography programs? Understanding a connection offers the possibility of increasing retention in radiography programs and providing direction to admissions committees.

The current shortage of allied health staff in clinics and hospitals is well documented, and the shortage of radiographers is especially acute.1 The Annual Report of the American Registry of Radiologie Technologists2 identifies that the number of graduates entering the field since 2000 increased approximately 10% in 2001 and 2002. Even with this increase, radiography programs have not been able to alleviate the shortage of radiographers in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook? the need for radiographers is expected to increase 21% to 35% from 2000 to 2010.

Attrition, no matter how small, has an effect on the entire field. A student who leaves a radiography program creates a void that cannot be filled until the program completes another admissions cycle, up to a year later. With the current shortage of radiographers in the United States, it is important for programs to select candidates who will complete the program. A student who achieves at a high academic level but withdraws from the program before graduation only contributes to the shortage of radiographers. The greatest benefit to the profession of radiography occurs when programs select students who graduate and pass the credentialing examination for radiographers.

The admissions practices used by radiography programs vary from program to program. Some programs use a competitive process, and others use a "first come, first served" or lottery process. Furthermore, programs that have a competitive process use different data in making decisions about admission. Grade point average (GPA), grades in specific courses, letters of reference, standardized testing, and personal interviews may be used in whole or in part by admissions committees when selecting candidates.

Using past performance to predict future success is the basis of any competitive admissions process, but a competitive process is not always the best indicator of retention. Other factors, such as a student's family background, already existing skills, and previous education, are factors in the retention equation. In his book entitled Leaving College, Vincent Tinto4 further explains attrition as an inability of a student to be integrated academically and socially into the institution. Integration is affected by positive incidents that the student experiences academically (academic performance, faculty interaction) and socially (extracurricular activities, peer group interaction) over time. If an extended observation experience is required before students enter a program, for example, they would begin the process of social integration and the chance for retention should increase.

By analyzing the admissions practices of radiography programs, the present study potentially can show how admissions practices correlate with retention. This information can help admissions committees to evaluate their current practices, lead to standardization of admissions practices across radiography programs, increase retention rates in the programs, and lead to a larger number of graduates entering the radiography profession. …

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