Background and Purpose.
Physical therapist assistant (PTA) education experienced a 34% increase in the overall number of accredited and developing programs from 2007 to 2012. While PTA programs have primarily been housed in not-for-profit institutions, 60% of developing PTA programs in 2014 were housed in for-profit institutions. In light of these changes, purposes of this study were to: (a) identify institutional and program factors related to graduation rate and licensure pass rate in PTA education programs and (b) determine whether institutional and program factors were predictive of successful graduate outcomes.
Deidentified data from the 274 PTA programs in the United States that had graduates in 2012 were utilized. This study was part of a larger investigation that also included physical therapist (PT) programs.
Spearman rank correlation coefficients were calculated to examine relationships among selected predictor variables and outcome variables of graduation rates, first-time licensure pass rates, and 3-year ultimate pass rates. Prediction models were developed using stepwise regression analyses for variables that demonstrated significant correlations. Additional analyses were conducted to provide clarity on the characteristics of the variable institutional status (for-profit or not-for-profit).
Nonparametric analyses revealed significant weak correlations with PTA graduation rate for 3 variables. The percentage of program weeks in full-time clinical education was positively associated with graduation rate, while complete program length and total operating expenses per graduate were negatively associated. Predictors of graduation rate were total operating expenses per graduate and percentage of full-time clinical education.
For-profit institutional status and number of cohorts per year demonstrated weak to fair significant negative correlations with licensure pass rates (ultimate and first-time). The single predictor of first-time and ultimate pass rates, a negative predictor, was for-profit institutional status.
Discussion and Conclusion.
Our findings identified clear distinctions between factors related to graduation rates and factors related to licensure pass rates. Programs with a greater percentage of program weeks consisting of full-time clinical experiences had higher graduation rates. The optimal percentage of program time devoted to clinical education has not previously been investigated and warrants further study. Programs in for-profit institutions had lower licensure pass rates than programs in not-for-profit institutions. This finding was consistent with the literature in higher education and merits further investigation since the majority of developing PTA programs is housed in for-profit institutions. The results of this study may inform stakeholders in PTA education, including program faculty, administrators, students, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), and the public.