Faculty and programmatic influences on the percentage of graduates of color from professional physical therapy programs in the United States

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2021 Mar;26(1):215-235. doi: 10.1007/s10459-020-09980-z. Epub 2020 Jun 24.


The physical therapy profession in the United States suffers from a shortage of providers of color. This is unlikely to change with newly graduating students, as 2.6% of 2017 graduates were African American and 5.7% were Hispanic or Latino. Faculty mentorship has a more profound influence on the retention of underrepresented minority students as compared with students from privileged backgrounds, according to undergraduate literature. The influences of faculty characteristics on physical therapy graduates of color are unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine faculty and programmatic characteristics that could influence the percentage of physical therapy graduates of color. This study implemented the theory of academic capitalism to inform the results of a retrospective panel analysis, which used accreditation data from 2008 to 2017. Data from 231 programs was used to create fixed effects and random effects models to estimate the effects that faculty and program characteristics had on the percentage of graduates of color that a program produced. There was a statistically significant positive relationship between faculty of color and graduates of color (p < 0.001), but faculty must be sufficiently diverse before a program can expect a meaningful change in their percentage of graduates of color. Academic capitalist principles suggest that competition between programs for resources could negatively influence the proportion of graduates of color. Cause and effect associations between variables cannot be established. The authors concluded that professional physical therapy programs appeared to have increases in the percentages of graduates of color when they had more core faculty members of color.

Keywords: Academic capitalism; Accreditation; Faculty of color; Graduate student retention; Panel analysis; Physical therapy education; Students of color.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Faculty / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Mentoring / organization & administration*
  • Minority Groups*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / education*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States