For some time, the ABCMO Board has been concerned over evidence of growing surplus numbers of optometrists.
In 1997, following graduation rates around 1,127 for many years, the AOA sponsored National Optometry Census was released and then analyzed in the Abt. Manpower Study in 2000, also sponsored by the AOA. The Abt. Study concluded the supply of optometrists equaled demand in 1997 but the graduation rate of 1,127 would create future surpluses. In 1997 the optometry density was 11.5 licensed optometrists per 100,000.
Since 1997, new schools opened, three more are being organized and a fourth is being considered. This year, graduates will approach 1,600 and increase to nearly 1,900 by 2018. Meanwhile, applications per seat have declined and these high enrollments will lead to record densities of 15-17 per 100,000,
The editorial concludes optometry, unlike medicine, dentistry and podiatry, has a growing surplus of practitioners chiefly produced by:
- Overly optimistic forecasts of optometry manpower needs.
- Freely available guaranteed student loans.
- Accreditation standards lacking quantitative clinical training requirements.