Factors Important to Underrepresented Minorities When Selecting a Pharmacy School

Location, class size, student-to-faculty ratio, and a strong alumni network are some of the recommendations that Campbell highlighted as main points to look for in a program.

Factors such as diversity in students and faculty, in addition to educational programming, are crucial to underrepresented minority (URM) populations, according to a session at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual Pharmacy Education 2021 conference.

Hope Campbell, PharmD, BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice at Belmont University, discussed her research on minorities and their selection of a school of pharmacy. As the pool is highly competitive, she encourages students to truly look at the main factors of the school they want to attend. Location, class size, student-to-faculty ratio, and a strong alumni network are some of the recommendations that Campbell highlighted as main points to look for in a program.

For example, she emphasized the practice of going to a campus in-person before finalizing a decision.

“You cannot underestimate the value of an actual visit to a campus, regardless of what you see online or read,” Campbell said. “It’s important to visit the program to get a real feel of what it is like to spend 4 to 6 years in a real institution.”

In an electronic survey from fall 2019 of all first- and second-year pharmacy students at a private southern college of pharmacy (171), the results were analyzed as a whole and by race/ethnicity, according to Campbell. The profile of index schools further indicated that the schools were private, had a religious affiliation, a 4-year curriculum, and a relatively high cost of living.

The factors that were assessed by these students included:

  • location
  • academics
  • diversity of the students/faculty
  • student life
  • tuition

Out of the 102 students who replied to the survey (at a 60% response rate), many of the students were ranking reputation, academics, on-campus vibes, and the facilities as the most important. Campbell took it further by comparing underrepresented minorities versus white students and Black students versus white students and their preferences.

For URMs, diversity of the student body, diversity of faculty, reputation for treatment of minorities, and cost of living were ranked as more important than how white students rated those factors. Additionally, Black students rated a diverse student and faculty population, reputation of treatment of minorities, and cost of living much higher than white students did. White students found facilities to be more important compared to how URMs/Blacks ranked that category.

Campbell reiterated that the features that are most important to a student depends on who you ask, because there are some factors that you can control—such as the friendliness of the staff—and those you cannot, such as tuition.

“If we are trying to increase diversity within our student body, we need to ask students whether or not we are doing a good job,” Campbell said. “There are some factors we can control, but there are things that we need to compensate for if we cannot control them.”

She explained how making adjustments, such as subsidizing the cost of living with scholarships, will help the recruitment process as an institution and can cater to the needs of a diverse student population based on their own personal data.

For a prospective student and the faculty, diversity has become the most important focus for having a reputable program.

“How you treat your students and minorities is important, and what is being said on social media matters because it is going to affect your ability to attract a diverse group of students,” Campbell said.

She added that attracting individuals who may not have financial resources can start with incentivizing their attendance, and a good interview process can lock them in or drive them away.

Campbell hopes to evaluate a larger number of schools from different regions of the country in the future, including a school level assessment of recruitment efforts based on current data and evaluating URM student experiences while they are matriculating.

REFERENCE

Campbell H. Attracting Diversity- What Factors Are Important to Underrepresented Minorities When Selecting A School Of Pharmacy. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual Pharmacy Education 2021 conference. July 19, 2021. Accessed July 22, 2021.