To explore whether community college (CC) applicants were a significant contributor to the diversity of matriculants to physician assistant (PA) programs and whether CC applicants were less likely to matriculate to PA programs than non-CC applicants.
The authors used national data from the 2016-2017 application cycle. They categorized applicants to PA programs into 5 pathways: HS-CC (applicant attended CC while in high school), first-CC (applicant attended CC prior to a 4-year university), 4Y-CC (applicant attended CC while at a 4-year university), post-CC (applicant attended CC after graduating from a 4-year university), and no-CC (applicant never attended CC). The authors used Pearson chi-square and Kruskal-Wallis H tests and the appropriate post-hoc tests to assess whether applicants in the 4 CC pathways were more diverse in terms of their race, ethnicity, gender, rurality, and socioeconomic status than those in the no-CC pathway. They used logistic regressions to assess the associations between the CC pathways and matriculation to a PA program.
Among the 8,577 matriculants in the 2016-2017 application cycle, more than 75% attended a CC at some point. First-CC and post-CC matriculants were more likely to be Black (P < .001) or Hispanic (P < .001) and come from a disadvantaged background (P < .001) than no-CC matriculants. After adjusting for applicant demographics, academic performance, rurality and socioeconomic status, and application strategy, first-CC applicants had 17% lower odds of matriculating to a PA program than no-CC applicants (P < .001).
CCs are an important pathway to the PA profession, with 3 of 4 matriculants having a CC background. However, lower matriculation rates among similarly qualified applicants who transferred from a CC to a 4-year university compared to applicants with no CC background suggest that PA programs are missing important opportunities for increasing student diversity and thereby the profession.