A proliferation of new colleges and schools of pharmacy has occurred in the United States since the mid-1990s. The intent of this paper is to describe several attributes of these new colleges and schools of pharmacy and compare them with the old. By so doing, we hope to stimulate data-based discussion on changes in the pharmacy education enterprise that are underway. To accomplish this, we integrated and summarized empirical information already publicly available but scattered. Much information was obtained from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Web site,1
with collateral information acquired from the pharmacy colleges'/schools' Web sites. Other Web sites utilized were Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)2
for their official actions through January 2008 and Association of Academic Health Centers for academic health centers' (AHC) locations as of May 2008.3
In the 1995-1996 academic year, 75 colleges and schools of pharmacy had enrolled students in first professional degree PharmD programs. For the purposes of our study, we designated these colleges/schools as “old.” Between fall 1996 and spring 2007, 14 additional colleges/schools established PharmD programs, graduated at least 1 class by spring 2007, and became fully accredited by the ACPE. We designated these colleges/schools as “new w/grads.” An additional 12 colleges and schools of pharmacy had enrolled PharmD students by fall 2007 but had not graduated any PharmD students by spring 2007. We designated these colleges/schools “new/enr/no grads by S07.” Another 8 colleges and schools were preparing to admit a first PharmD class in fall 2008 (“new/enr in F08”). Several more colleges/schools were in earlier stages of development. From 1996 to 2008, the number of functioning colleges and schools of pharmacy increased by 45% (from 75 to 109).
The total enrollment in the first professional degree PharmD programs of the “old” colleges/schools grew by over 30% from approximately 33,000 in fall 1996 to approximately 43,400 in fall 2007. A large part of this growth can be attributed to the transition from the 3-year to the 4-year professional program which took place for most “old” colleges/schools in the mid-to-late 1990s. The 14 “new w/grads” colleges/schools added an additional enrollment of 4,900 PharmD students, bringing the total PharmD enrollment in these 89 colleges/schools to 48,300, an increase of over 46% during the 11-year period.
This growth dwarfs that of other health professions. For example, while the Association of American Medical Colleges has recommended an increase in US medical college/school enrollment of 30% by 2015, based upon first-year enrollment in 2002, the number of medical colleges/schools has remained at about 126 since 1980. In 2007, 7 new allopathic medical colleges/schools were in development. Osteopathic medicine has opened 10 new colleges/schools since 1981.4
The number of dental colleges/schools has declined since 1985 and even with the recent addition of new colleges/schools has not returned to that level.5
The large increases in the number of colleges and schools of pharmacy and in PharmD enrollment raise important issues linked to pharmacy workforce needs, the ability of colleges/schools to recruit and retain the quantity and quality of faculty members needed to deliver PharmD programs with larger enrollments, the change in the nature of pharmacy education, and the impact of the changing attributes of colleges and schools of pharmacy. The primary driver of increases in PharmD program enrollment and the initiation of new colleges and schools of pharmacy has been the shortage of pharmacy practitioners. Numerous studies over the past 10 years have explored the shortage and related it to the growing sales of prescription medications; increased third-party coverage for prescription drugs; aging of the baby-boomer generation, which has increased the number of elderly patients who use more pharmaceuticals; and the retirement of a large cohort of pharmacy practitioners.6
A conference exploring professionally-determined need for 2020 forecasted a shortfall of some 150,000 pharmacists.7
While the pharmacist shortage may precipitate the founding of a new college or school of pharmacy, other factors also contribute to the decision, such as the desire to fulfill an institutional mission, the needs of related campus educational programs, the aspiration of the parent institution to expand its offerings (especially revenue-generating programs), and/or the availability of substantial additional resources and external support. Rapid growth of colleges and schools of pharmacy may overwhelm their ability to arrange adequate experiential sites and appoint qualified faculty members.8,9
A shortage of faculty members, especially in the practice arena, is a major concern to the AACP10
and the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE).11,12
Since colleges and schools of pharmacy vary in the size of their PharmD programs, making comparisons based upon the absolute number of full-time (FT) faculty members would be misleading. However, the PharmD student-to-faculty member ratio is commonly used to provide some guidance to prospective students seeking information about colleges and schools of pharmacy. For example, the AACP provided advice to prospective pharmacy students to “…inquire about the following issues:…The number of faculty members…and student-to-faculty ratios.”13
Therefore, PharmD student enrollment-to-FT faculty member ratios are of consequence.
The Commission to Implement Change in Pharmaceutical Education proposed that while individual colleges and schools of pharmacy have distinctive missions and that these missions may differ, the pharmacy education enterprise as a whole also has a mission. The Commission defined that mission as responsibility not only for educating future pharmacists (the PharmD program) but also for “…generating and disseminating new knowledge about drugs and about pharmaceutical care systems.”14
The Commission also emphasized the responsibility of the enterprise for fostering research and scholarship, graduate studies, postgraduate clinical residencies and fellowships, and the continual evaluation of the nature and scope of its activities. While the Commission noted that it does not expect all colleges/schools to do all of these things, all should endorse them as part of the mission of the enterprise. The incremental attributes of each new college/school change the configuration or profile of the entire pharmacy education enterprise and in so doing influence how it might meet its mission and broad responsibilities.
We looked at 3 different aspects of the pharmacy education enterprise: (1) attributes of the 109 functioning colleges and schools of pharmacy as of 2008, (2) attributes of the 89 colleges and schools of pharmacy with PharmD graduates as of 2007, and (3) the attributes of these 89 colleges/schools linked to faculty member characteristics and ratios.