The relationship of educational indebtedness and mode of professional practice for graduates of schools and colleges of optometry

Lawrence Hartley McClure, University of Pennsylvania


Given the high costs of an optometric education, the majority of students attending public and private optometric institutions rely on student financial assistance in the form of educational loans to assist in meeting educational expenses. Within the optometric profession, there is growing concern that the increased borrowing levels of optometry students has had, and is having, a negative impact on graduates' ability to enter the mode of practice of their choice. The focus of the study was whether or not educational indebtedness is a significant or limiting factor in the decision making calculus of recent optometry school graduates, with regard to their mode of professional practice. The literature reflects that student loan repayment generally coincides with the 25-40 year age range, which includes the beginning of one's career and family life. Student loan repayments, although reflective of the cost of acquiring a higher education and the resulting career opportunities afforded therein, only add to the already substantial expenses one confronts during the 25-40 year age range. The financial planning models that have been developed to predict manageable levels of indebtedness fail to reach consensus as to the definition of "comfortable" student loan repayments. Additionally, research which has been done in the area of student loan defaults suggests that health professional students, in general, and optometric students, in particular, are unlikely candidates for default. Studies which have reviewed the impact of student loan repayment on the individual suggest that, aside from shouldering aside resources that might have gone into savings, student loans have not had the negative impact on borrowers that many observers felt they would. The core hypothesis derived from the review of literature was: the greater the absolute level of educational indebtedness, the less choice borrowers will have regarding mode of optometric practice and the more likely they will be employed in a corporate setting. A secondary hypothesis revolved about the concept: the greater the absolute level of educational indebtedness, the more likely optometrists will initially select a non-preferred mode of practice (corporate). A third hypothesis was: regardless of the absolute level of educational indebtedness, by the fifth, or no later than the tenth year of professional practice an optometrist will be engaged in his or her preferred mode of practice. The study consisted of a cross sectional survey of optometry school graduates in their first, fifth and tenth years of professional practice. Data were collected through the use of a written questionnaire that was mailed to a sample selected from graduates of 13 of the 15 US schools and colleges of optometry. Due to the small number of minority, or traditionally underrepresented, students enrolled in optometry schools, the study employed the use of a disproportionate stratified sample. The dependent variables in the proposed study were: mode of professional practice and practice preference. The independent variables included: (1) Level of educational indebtedness; (2) Practice location; (3) Employment status; (4) Age and # of years in practice; (5) Gender; (6) Marital status.

Subject Area

Higher education|School finance

Recommended Citation

McClure, Lawrence Hartley, "The relationship of educational indebtedness and mode of professional practice for graduates of schools and colleges of optometry" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829943.