The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California (USC) no longer will matriculate new dental hygiene students, making the Class of 2021 the last to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from the school.
The move comes as USC undergraduate admission standards continue to rise, making it more difficult for prospective students to be admitted into USC, according to the school.
“The higher admission standards were making it much more difficult to fill our dental hygiene candidates with the right candidates to continue our longstanding tradition of excellence,” said Diane Melrose, director of the dental hygiene program.
The decision also comes as new programs offering both a bachelor’s degree and certificate in dental hygiene have opened in recent years at significantly lower costs, USC said.
Despite the decision, the Ostrow School of Dentistry said that it remains committed to supporting the dental hygiene profession and that it will explore new ways to elevate it while supporting the community of amazing USC dental hygienists.
The dental school also said that it is grateful to its faculty members who have helped to produce a caliber of dental hygienist like no other and to its graduates who continue to be the most sought after in the profession.
The dental hygiene program began in 1928 as a two-year certificate program. In the 1940s, dental hygiene students had the choice between pursuing a certificate or a bachelor’s of science degree in dental hygiene. In 1962, the program became a bachelor’s degree program only.
“We urge on our dental hygiene schools the conduct of such courses of study as will not only make technically proficient dental hygienists, but also produce women who can educate and think in terms of highest service, remembering that education is not a static thing, but its ever changing to meet the requirements of the people,” said USC dental hygiene program founder Cora Ueland in 1929 about the move to a bachelor’s degree.
Over the years, USC said, class sizes have fluctuated from just two or three students during World War II to 53 years in 1996. The Class of 2021 has 20 students.
“Even if the program is winding down, we as educators, are not,” said Melrose. “With this last class, we intend to impart the same superior knowledge, skills, and competence that the world has come to know USC dental hygienists for.”