Although the economy is down, interest in healthcare management is on the rise, according to a report by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education.

During the 2007-2008 academic year, 83 accredited programs in 72 colleges and universities received 5,464 applications and enrolled 2,094 new students, according to CAHME. The commission noted that it does not have exact numbers for the 2009-2010 academic year; however, they have received reports of substantial increases.

For example, Daniel Gentry, PhD, program director, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, said applications to Rush’s graduate program in health systems management are up almost 40%.  “The number of highly qualified applicants in the pool has risen dramatically,” he said. “Last year, 38% of our applicants pre-qualified for interviews, based on overall academic and experience accomplishments. This year, the pre-qualified shot up to 61%."

Teresa Schwartz agreed. The assistant director of the Master of Health Administration program at the Bloomberg School at Johns Hopkins University said the number of applications to their program is up 87% compared to the same time last year.

Of the 1,799 graduates from CAHME-accredited programs in 2008, 55% were women and 45% men. Furthermore, 38% of the graduates were minorities. 

“I am particularly pleased with the diversity of the student population, both in terms of gender and the representation of minorities,” said Thomas C. Royer, MD chair of the Board of CAHME and president and CEO of CHRISTUS Health (Irving, Texas). “The range of backgrounds of those entering the profession bodes well for our ability to find innovative solutions to delivering quality, accessible and affordable healthcare to the nation.” 

The increased numbers fuels greater competitiveness for admission. Sharon Schweikhart, PhD, director of the graduate program in Health Services Management and Policy at Ohio State University, said, “We have 7.5% more applications, are getting them earlier and getting a larger number of strong applications with higher GPAs and GMAT or GRE test scores.”  The median 2008 cumulative/senior GPA for students entering CAHME-accredited program was 3.33.

CAHME reported that its official Web site demonstrates the growing interest in the profession. Since October 2008 the number of visits has increased 10% every month and will top 100,000 this academic year.

John Lloyd, president and CEO of CAHME observes, “Increases in applications appear greater at the public universities which report 7.5%-20% increases. Many private colleges report smaller increases. Program directors credit the economy and their own more targeted marketing efforts for increases.”

Enrollment in executive programs serving those part-time students was one area of potential weakness in the overall picture of growth, according to CAHME. Andrea White, PhD, program director, Medical University of South Carolina, said, “Applications are down for the working healthcare students because they are concerned about finances.”