ASRT survey: Enrollment for RT programs on a downward trend

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Enrollment levels for radiologic technology programs, including radiography, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine programs, have decreased for the second consecutive year and have seemingly reached a plateau throughout the past nine years, based on a recent survey published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT).

Approximately 455 radiography programs, 62 radiation therapy programs, 66 nuclear medicine technology programs and six unspecified programs throughout the country responded to the online survey.

ASRT found that 61.5 percent of radiography programs, 26.4 percent of nuclear medicine programs and 25.9 percent of radiation therapy programs offer only associate degree-granting programs. No statistically significant data in terms of region in which the program was located affected the numbers.

The estimates as far as first-year enrollment rates for radiography (16,759), radiation therapy (1,505) and nuclear medicine technology students (1,482) have seen an overall decrease in enrollment rates for each program, as 56 percent of program directors reported full enrollment in 2009 compared to 61.4 percent in 2008. These lower rates are being seen despite the fact that programs are increasing program offerings and attempting to enroll more students.

Despite the overall growth in program offerings in 2009, some radiologic technology programs have reported plans to decrease program enrollment, with 9.6 percent of radiography, 16.7 percent of radiation therapy, and 15.4 percent of nuclear medicine technology programs responding they plan on lower enrollment rates.

In addition, eight programs reported plans to close within the next two years.

Despite the downward growth pattern, interest in the radiologic technology profession remains high.  About eight percent of radiography programs noted plans to increase student enrollment, as did 3.3 percent of radiation therapy and 15.4 percent of all nuclear medicine programs, according to the authors.

Moreover, radiography programs reported an overall full-enrollment level of 60 percent, with radiation therapy noting 45 percent and nuclear medicine at 37 percent.

In fact, program directors managing fully enrolled programs reported turning away approximately 20,729 qualified students in 2009, while programs not at the full enrollment level reported unused capacity totaling only 1,747 students, said the survey.