Fall 2013

Satisfied Customers

Recent graduates say they’d happily choose Tufts again

By Gail Bambrick

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Marissa Dykes, D16, chats with classmates during lunch in the seventh-floor student living room. Photo: Kelvin Ma

If Tufts School of Dental Medicine graduates had it to do all over again—they’d make the same choice, according to a survey of 220 alumni from the classes of 2007 and 2010.

One respondent put it this way: “Getting educated at Tufts University has been the best thing that has ever happened in my life … every step of this journey has made me not only a better clinician but a better person as well.”

The comment echoes those of 88.4 percent of the survey respondents who said they would happily choose Tufts again. An even higher number, more than 94 percent, would also repeat their decision to earn a dental degree.

“This satisfaction rate is far and away above those at other dental schools that I am familiar with,” says Robert Kasberg, associate dean of admissions and student affairs. “We are very proud of how our administration has created an incredibly student-focused atmosphere here at Tufts.”

The annual survey is sent to alumni who graduated two years ago and five years ago. The results of the most recent survey, done in 2012, were released this summer, after the data were analyzed by the school’s Outcomes Assessment Committee, chaired by Michael Kahn, professor of oral pathology.

Kasberg says the school uses the survey to gauge graduates’ satisfaction with their dental education and to continually evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum.

“We always tell our students to self-assess as they progress through the degree,” Kasberg says. “This survey is the school’s chance to do the same, to ask ourselves what we could be doing better.”

The Issue of Cost

One such area, Kasberg notes, is cost—an issue of concern not only at dental schools, but in all of higher education. Twelve percent of the survey respondents said they would not choose Tufts again, the majority because of cost. Tuition at Tufts School of Dental Medicine is $63,932; adding in fees, the cost for first-year students is $77,073. And while 84 percent of all students received some form of financial aid in the 2012–13 academic year, the average indebtedness of a student graduating in 2013 was $246,313.

This, Kasberg says, is an issue the school takes seriously. “We need to ensure that student support remains at the very top of our list of philanthropic goals and priorities for Tufts School of Dental Medicine,” Kasberg says. “Students can graduate with debt as high as $400,000. This will affect their career choices. They may not [choose to] work in underserved areas, for example.”

More than 87 percent of survey respondents agree that reining in tuition is a priority. The cost of a dental education will determine “what shape the profession takes in the future,” Kasberg says. We recognize how important it is to get costs under control while maintaining quality.”

The quality and value of their education is what respondents rated most highly across the board. More than 95 percent agreed that faculty care about students and their goals, and about the same number said Tufts supports the development of competencies in professionalism and ethical behavior.

The vast majority said they were well prepared for dental practice. More than 95 percent gave high marks to their training in critical thinking, diagnosis, treatment planning and management of dental emergencies.

More than 90 percent of those responding also felt well prepared in the dental specialties, including periodontics, endodontics and oral and maxillofacial surgery, as well as working with medically compromised patients. Only in orthodontics did about 60 percent of respondents say they felt ill-prepared.

Because less than 6 percent of graduates pursue postgraduate training in orthodontics, Kasberg says, “we need to weigh increased investment for the school and more work for our students against the value of orthodontics for the majority.”

The dental school “has continuously improved by listening to our graduates who have taken what they’ve learned at Tufts into the field and tested its relevance and efficacy,” Kasberg says.

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