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ADEA Educational Research and Analysis—August 2014

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This month ADEA Educational Research and Analysis portfolio released the results of the Annual ADEA Survey of Dental School Seniors: 2013 Graduating Class in the August issue of the Journal of Dental Education. The annual survey collects selected characteristics of seniors graduating from U.S. dental schools and responses to questions such as the reasons students pursued a career in dentistry, how students financed their educational debt and students’ plans following graduation.

On average, the educational debt, undergraduate and dental school debt combined, reported by the 2013 cohort was over $215,000, which was nearly $20,000 more than in 2012 (see Table 8). Seniors attending public schools reported average debt of $189,000 and seniors attending private or private state-related schools reported a markedly higher average level of indebtedness at $249,000, which has been a continuing trend for the past two decades. Since 2012, the average debt upon graduation increased 8% for private or private state-related schools and 9% at all schools and public schools when normalizing to constant dollars. Dental students are also entering dental school with an average $45,000 in undergraduate debt, a 21% increase over 2012. Despite the increasing debt load, nearly 11% of the 2013 seniors indicated they will graduate without any debt (Table 10).

Most of the seniors either planned to pursue private practice (48%) or continue their educational training as a student, resident, or intern (33%) on a full-time basis immediately after graduation (Table 19). A much smaller percentage intended to pursue a full- or part-time position as a faculty/staff member at a dental school (0.5%) or with the armed services (6%) directly following graduation.

Slightly more than half (51%) of these graduating seniors said they intended to work in an underserved area at some point after graduation (Table 22). An overwhelming majority (86%) said they either agreed or strongly agreed that providing care to all segments of society is an ethical and professional obligation (Table 43). And when asked about their extramural clinical rotations, 71% of these seniors reported that the experience at least “somewhat influenced” their interest in treating underserved populations, while 79% said the rotation improved their ability to care for diverse groups of patients (Table 35). Twenty-seven percent reported that their extramural clinical experience influenced their plans on where to practice “much” or “very much;” however, a similar percentage said it did not influence their practice plans at all.