A National Survey and Analysis of PTA Students on PTA Program Length and Accrued Student Loan Debt

Purpose/Hypothesis : Physical therapist assistant (PTA) educational programs have been at the Associate degree level since their inception over forty years ago. There are currently discussions within the profession regarding the possible transition of PTA education to a BachelorÕs degree model. The average student loan debt obligation for college students has also risen significantly over the past decade. No previous study has surveyed PTA students regarding their perceptions on optimal program length or on the amount of student loan debt acquired solely for completing a PTA educational program. The purpose of this study was to survey soon-to-be PTA program graduates regarding their perceptions on PTA program length and on their amount of student loan debt.Number of Subjects : 545Materials/Methods : A link to an online survey was emailed to the program directors of all accredited and developing PTA programs with directions to forward the link onto students who would be graduating over the next three months. 545 PTA students completed the survey. Students were asked if PTA programs should be transitioned to a bachelor degree model, their perceptions on the length of their specific PTA program, and questions regarding the amount of student loan debt they will have acquired at the time of graduation.Results : 66.6% of students stated that PTA educational programs should be transitioned to a BachelorÕs degree model. 42.9% of students stated that the amount of time it took to complete their specific PTA program was too short and should be extended. 29.9% of students stated that they would not have attended a PTA program if it was offered at the BachelorÕs degree level. At the time of graduation, the average amount of PTA program-specific student loan debt for all students was $11,346. The amount of debt for students at private institutions ($24,755) was significantly higher (P < .05) than the debt amount for students at public institutions ($8,696). Students attending private institutions were also significantly more concerned about their ability to repay their student loans (P < ,05). The average length of time subjects estimated it will take to pay off their student loans after graduation was 7.1 years. The estimated time to pay off student loan debt was significantly higher (P < .05) for subjects attending private institutions (11.0 years) than those at public institutions (6.4 years). Additional inferential analysis will also be presented regarding program length and student loan debt.Conclusions : A majority of surveyed PTA students believe that PTA educational programs should be transitioned to a BachelorÕs degree model. The amount of student loan debt for PTA students attending private institutions is significantly higher than students attending public institutions.Clinical Relevance : A sizable population of PTA students would not have considered PTA as a career choice if it was at a BachelorÕs degree level.

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  • Control #: 1724251
  • Type: Poster
  • Event/Year: CSM2014
  • Authors: Justin Berry, Kortni Miller, Thomas Velasquez
  • Keywords: Physical Therapist Assistant Program|Student Debt|PTA Curriculum

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