The percentage of West Virginia residents enrolled in the West Virginia University School of Dentistry’s Doctor of Dental Surgery program has fallen sharply in the past three years, but according to representatives of the school, that decline can be explained in part by the school’s shrinking pool of in-state applicants.
In 2010, the school had an incoming DDS class of 51 students. Of those, 41 were from West Virginia and made up 80.4 percent of the class. The incoming 2011 class had a similar makeup: 43 of the 52 members of the class were students from West Virginia, representing 82.6 percent of the class.
Those numbers began to drop in 2012: the class size was raised to 60, and 41 of those accepted were in-state students, for a total of 68.3 percent of the class. The class sizes have remained capped at 60, and, in 2013, 36 students, or 60 percent of the class, were West Virginians. This year, that number is 27, or roughly 45 percent.
According to Dr. Shelia Price, associate dean of admissions, recruitment and access for the WVSOD, the school expanded its class size to help alleviate the shortage of dentists in West Virginia. In the same three-year span, the number of in-state applicants has dropped: in 2012, 78 West Virginia students applied to the school and 52.6 percent of them were accepted. In 2013, 69 applied and 36 were accepted, a rate of 52.2 percent, and last year, only 49 in-state students applied. Twenty-seven were accepted — 55.1 percent of those who applied.
“In keeping with WVU’s land-grant mission, West Virginia applicants receive priority consideration for all programs in the School of Dentistry,” Price said. “The admissions committee utilizes a holistic review process, which takes into account academic and nonacademic variables. Among the things we consider are college grades, an applicant’s score on the Dental Admission Test (DAT) administered by the American Dental Association, previous dental experience, including office shadowing or employment and communication skills.”
Price said the committee also takes into consideration “challenges or hardships the applicant has had to overcome,” whether he or she is a first-generation college student, and the person’s desire to practice dentistry in West Virginia.
“Our nonresident enrollment each year includes a number of individuals who have previous ties to West Virginia or to WVU. In the class that is starting this week, nine students who are not West Virginia residents have other strong ties to the state,” Price said.
The school also has an agreement with Kuwait to provide dental training to students who then return to their country to promote oral health care, Price said. The out-of-state students in this year’s class include two Kuwaitis.
In contrast to the number of in-state applicants, the school received 1,138 applications from out-of-state in 2012 and accepted 19 of them — an acceptance rate of 1.7 percent. In 2013, 1,071 applied and 24 were accepted, at a 2.2 percent acceptance rate. Last year, 33 of the school’s 1,096 out-of-state applicants were accepted — 3 percent of those who applied from outside the state.
Price said it’s difficult to pinpoint the various factors that contribute to the low number of in-state applicants for the school — before 2004, the number of in-state applicants each year had never topped 50. The number of applicants overall has dropped since 2010 and, according to the American Dental Education Association, the number of dental school applicants nationwide dropped by nearly 2,000 between 2007 and 2012, before stagnating, while seven new schools of dentistry were established in the United States.
“The decline in applications from West Virginia students is a concern that we are well aware of and have been addressing in recent years,” Price said. “We have partnered with West Liberty University and Slippery Rock University, in Pennsylvania, to offer a Dental Early Admissions Programs designed to attract college students to our program, with priority given to West Virginia residents. Additionally, we have a longstanding early admissions program with Shepherd University for the same purpose.”
The cost of attending dental school could be a contributing factor, Price said, as well as “the status of oral health in our state.” The school visits West Virginia college campuses to recruit each year, and participates in the Healthy Careers Opportunity Program, a seminar program that introduces students to admissions criteria and in-office learning opportunities.
Overall, WVU has a low rate of in-state student numbers when compared to other public land-grant institutions. According to the Princeton Review, WVU’s undergraduate population is made up of 51 percent in-state students and 49 percent out-of-state students. In contrast, the University of Georgia’s undergraduate class is 92 percent in-state students, the University of California at Berkeley is 86 percent in-state students, the University of Arizona is 74 percent in-state students, the University of Connecticut is 79 percent in-state students and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is 91 percent in-state students.
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