Would you believe more schools are on the way?

August 22, 2005

Betting that the pharmacist shortage will stretch into the distant future, many higher education administrators are busy planning to build even more pharmacy schools.

Betting that the pharmacist shortage will stretch into the distant future, many higher education administrators are busy planning to build even more pharmacy schools.

There are currently 89 accredited schools of pharmacy in the United States, but about a dozen more institutions in various stages of development may be coming on line in the next few years, according to Susan Meyer, Ph.D., senior VP, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

Three pharmacy schools have been granted pre-candidate status by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), said associate executive director Jeffrey Wadelin, Ph.D. A pre-candidate is a new pharmacy program that has not yet enrolled students but meets basic ACPE eligibility criteria for accreditation. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Touro University-California, and University of Appalachia in Grundy, Va., have cleared that hurdle.

Several other pharmacy programs are in the works but have not yet shown up on ACPE's accreditation radar. University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio; Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.; the University of North Texas in Fort Worth; and Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown are in various stages of development. The University of Hawaii is planning a new pharmacy program but has encountered state funding problems.

Also in the 50th state, the Hawaii College of Pharmacy has decided to proceed even though the ACPE board of trustees voted to not authorize an on-site visit and urged the institution to withdraw its application. Its Web site carries a warning in capital letters that it is not accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. education secretary. Students who enroll in such an unaccredited program are taking a big gamble that they will be able to get a license to practice after graduation.

As if the dozen planned schools weren't enough, another nine institutions have contacted AACP in the past year for information they could use to conduct feasibility studies of whether to start a program of their own, said Meyer. "We are aware of another four institutions considering the establishment of a pharmacy program, but from whom we have not heard directly," she added.

According to Wadelin, pharmacy programs are in an "unprecedented growth phase" fueled by the increased demand for pharmaceutical products and services and the shortage of pharmacists. "ACPE does not attempt to regulate the number of programs, but programs have to be careful about gearing up too fast," he said. "If anything, our concern is that at some point there will be an adjustment and the bubble will burst."