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Class of 2023 Attrition Rate

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Hi! My name is Dr. Courtney Lloyd, and I'm the Assistant Program Director of the PA Program at USF. I am happy to help explain the attrition rate for the Class of 2023. 

First, a little background:

Student attrition is annually monitored and analyzed by the program. We use a multifactorial approach to ensure that our assessment is thorough, which enables us to create clear action steps that can be implemented to ameliorate any concerns. Our approach includes an analysis of our course and instructor evaluations; students’ admission factors (e.g., prerequisite GPAs, course grades, DPC hours, etc.); student performance (as measured by number of remediations, grades of C or below); and perceived extent of institutional support (from both faculty and students).

The Cohort of 2023 began their studies in May 2021 and graduated in August 2023 with a graduation rate of 72% (18/25 students completed the program). This rate represented a peak in recent years, with attrition rates increasing across Cohorts 2021-2023 (4%, 7%, and 28%, respectively), before decreasing across Cohorts 2024-2025 (28%, 8%, and 0%, respectively). Across Cohorts 2021-2025, our graduation rate is 90%.

Regarding Cohort 2023 specifically: 

Altogether, our comprehensive review of the data suggests that student attrition in Cohort 2023 was largely the result of poor academic performance during the first semester, with several students identifying difficulties adjusting to the rigors of graduate school. PA school is an academically challenging endeavor overall, but the first semester can be particularly onerous. A few of the attrited students noted specifically that they were surprised at the difficulty of the program; that they didn’t feel academically capable of succeeding; or that they lacked passion for the PA profession. Two students also self-reported mental health and/or personal life challenges during this time which contributed to their loss from the program.

Our review suggested that students who struggled the most academically during the first semester also tended to have lower undergraduate science GPAs (3.2 on average). This data suggests that an undergraduate science GPA <3.20 may predispose students to an increased risk of attrition but does not imply that students with an undergraduate science GPA <3.20 will attrit. Over the years, we have seen students with lower undergraduate GPAs excel just as much as we see students with higher undergraduate GPAs encounter difficulties. Much of one’s ability to be successful in PA school depends on mindset, determination, willingness to ask for help, and courage to face adversity again and again.

I also want to provide a brief summary of just a few of the changes that the program has made since Summer 2021. We believe these changes have significantly influenced (or will influence!) student success early in the program:

  • Beginning with the Class of 2026 (which matriculates in August 2024), a new curriculum will be used that disperses foundational science content (e.g., anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, genetics, microbiology, etc.) more evenly throughout the curriculum. The former curricular model had a distinct anatomy and physiology course (i.e., Human Structure and Function) and pharmacology courses (Pharmacology for PAs and Pharmacology II) that required students to learn a tremendous amount of essential information in a relatively short time frame. By reallocating this content according to organ system using a modular approach, we aim to provide a sturdier scaffold to learn and apply this information.
  • We’ve moved the start of the program from the summer semester (early May start) to the fall semester (late August start). This change aligns our start date with the university’s and increases our students’ access to resources like the Health and Wellness Center, which includes counseling services; as well as the Academic and Career Development Center (ACDC), which includes accommodation services. These services have diminished hours during the summer semester (as much of the university takes a respite) and are not as readily available for our students as they will be in the fall semester. We believe this change will ensure that each of our new students has access to the non-PA program support they may need to be successful.
  • We’ve implemented a student success intervention process that provides students with personalized attention when they begin to struggle early in the program. These interventions include individualized improvement plans intended to identify and address underlying factors affecting academic performance (e.g., mental health difficulties or poor study skills).
  • We’ve reviewed, improved, and continue to monitor several programmatic policies and procedures to promote student success. 
I hope this helps! Any additional questions, concerns, or other admission related matters can be emailed to me directly at clloyd@sf.edu. I'm always more than happy to speak with potential applicants! 🙂 
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