Job picture leads GTC to stop radiography program

June 10, 2013

From “Job picture leads GTC to stop radiography program” — The 16 students enrolled to start the two-year radiography program at Gateway Technical College this September will be the last group to start the program for at least a few years.

According to Mike O’Donnell, dean of health sciences at Gateway, the program was closed to new applicants after school officials found a decline in the job market for graduates with radiography degrees.

After collaborating with an advisory committee, made of professionals from the southeastern Wisconsin area, O’Donnell and other Gateway officials saw the job market was steadily declining for recently graduated radiographers. These are the people who take X-rays, MRIs and the like at hospitals and medical centers.

In addition to the professional input, Gateway surveyed those who already had graduated with the degree and found they were working multiple part-time jobs, some of which involved working on call.

“There probably wasn’t going to be any full-time jobs with benefits in hospitals for the students,” O’Donnell said. “They aren’t hiring new radiographers.”

However, Jake Nunn, director of imaging with Aurora Health Care, said Aurora is hiring radiographers, but fewer of them as the demand has decreased because more are graduating with radiology degrees. A radiographer takes and processes the images; a radiologist is a doctor who interprets and diagnoses disease or injury from the images.

“In the past we saw a shortage of these candidates, but new training programs have created a growing number of applicants. Like Gateway, we have identified this shift and decreased the number of caregivers in our own training program,” Nunn said.

The radiography program is expensive, too, O’Donnell said. The price of running the program, license requirements, becoming accredited and the lack of jobs for graduates made Gateway officials question the program.

“We looked at all those factors and asked ourselves if the program was the best use of Gateway’s resources,” O’Donnell said. “We asked ourselves if it was ethical to take Gateway students’ tuition money if they’re not going to get a job when they graduate.”

In December, O’Donnell and his co-workers closed enrollment to the radiography program, despite having 100 students on a waiting list.

Gateway notified those on the waiting list and asked if they were serious about becoming radiographers.

After the group was narrowed, students that had been on the waitlist for the longest time were accepted into the final radiography program at Gateway.

Sixteen students, as well as four or five alternates, make up the class that will graduate in 2015.

Gateway advisers assisted the other students in choosing another program to enroll in or transferring to another college with an open radiography program.

“We got them (the students who didn’t get in) into other programs,” O’Donnell said, even in some programs that might have already been full. “We gave the students special accommodation because they had already been on the wait list for so long.”

Although some students were upset that they didn’t get into the program their chose, O’Donnell said that once the job market was explained, students weren’t as upset.

“Nobody wanted to invest time and money in something they weren’t going to get a job in,” he said.


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