AAVMC Study Examines Bias in Veterinary School Admissions Processes, Standards

College students
College students
(File Photo)

A new study from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) finds that admission offers from veterinary medical schools tend to be lower or higher for certain groups, indicating that unintended bias still exists despite recent efforts to be more inclusive and adopt more holistic admissions practices.

The study recommends that schools focus more attention on overcoming barriers to admission based on factors such as race/ethnicity, gender, culture or socioeconomic status.

The AAVMC’s DiVersity Matters program has worked to draw attention to the need for veterinary medicine to be more inclusive and advocates for the recruitment and retention of underrepresented persons as students and faculty. Many schools have reexamined their admissions practices and adopted a more “holistic” approach that considers factors beyond academics–such as life experience, communication skills, or other personal skills that might contribute to success.

However, this data analysis shows that some groups are still disadvantaged.

Consultant James W. Lloyd, a former veterinary medical school dean, and the AAVMC’s Senior Director of Institutional Research and Diversity Lisa M. Greenhill, conducted the study, which compiled and analyzed data from the Veterinary Medical College Application Service 2018-2019 cycle post-application survey and the 2019 post-admissions student survey.

The study found that admission offers were lower for candidates from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, Pell Grant recipients, first-generation college students, candidates from rural communities and candidates who aspired to practice in rural communities. Offers tended to be higher for candidates who were white, male, grew up in suburban communities, were not Pell Grant recipients and whose parents attended college.

The study’s authors wrote that, “…these findings signal a very real need to reexamine admission processes. Schools and colleges of veterinary medicine should objectively and rigorously review their admissions processes and reevaluate those elements, such as the number of veterinary, animal, or total experience hours, that may be a source of inherent bias against particular groups of applicants.”

For example, candidates overwhelmingly reported that their veterinary experience contributed to their understanding of the veterinary medical profession. However, candidates who identified as under-represented or female, along with those who were Pell Grant recipients, reported greater difficulty in obtaining veterinary experience.

“Admittedly, the barriers/deterrents are not absolute—many disadvantaged candidates are ultimately successful in gaining an offer of admission,” wrote the authors, “but the playing field is certainly not level for all candidates; candidates from disadvantaged groups must overcome disproportionate degrees of difficulty to achieve their goals.”  



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