Are There Enough PT Schools?
Besides volunteering recently at the Texas Physical Therapy Association (TPTA) annual conference, I also had a chance to meet with both professionals and students. It turned out the number of PT schools is a hot topic in the profession. The answer depends on who you ask.
Students and would-be students both think there aren't enough schools. They complain about how hard it is to be accepted. Some of the locations aren't ideal. They believe more schools would increase the chances of being accepted.
Those in academia also seem to think more schools are needed. They cite geographic areas unable to find enough PTs. They say the acceptance criteria have risen so much that many applicants who would make wonderful PTs never get past the first round. PT schools bring money to universities, so the more of them, the better.
Newer graduates didn't seem to have an opinion. Generally they thought more schools were a good idea but lacked a specific reason why.
The one group against the idea is made up of PTs who have been practicing for a while. To a person, they complain of minimal job opportunities and low salaries. Some of them are planning to leave the profession because it has changed too much. Others can't find full-time employment or can't change jobs because there are no other options.
Several more experienced therapists talked about the new graduate revolving door. Facilities want to hire new graduates because their salaries are lower. As those PTs gain experience and move up the salary scale, they are replaced with other new graduates. The practice is used to keep costs down. It will only work as long as there is a steady supply of new graduates.
I think we have plenty of PT schools, but in the wrong locations. There are so many within 4 hours of each other here in Texas that the entire southeastern part of the state is oversaturated. We aren't the only area with this problem. The current schools aren't going to move, but we really don't need more in oversaturated areas. Every one of the schools in Houston has difficulty finding clinical education slots.
I don't understand how cranking out new graduates at such an accelerated rate helps the profession. It doesn't help our patients either if there is constant staff turnover. I'm sorry that would-be PTs have such a struggle to get in. I just don't think more schools are the answer.