ing and retaining URM students and faculty, and reviewing and amending admissions criteria were among the recommendations cited.
Accredited dental education programs in the United States are offered by 56 dental schools. Although the closure of five dental schools between 1986 and 1993 contributed to the 37 percent decline in first-year enrollments that occurred in the 1980s, the opening of three new schools since 1997 enabled the total number of first-year positions to increase from a low of 3,573 in 1989 to an average of 4,100–4,300 during the 1990s (Valachovic et al., 2001; Weaver et al., 2000). During the same period, the total number of applicants to U.S. schools increased nearly 100 percent to a peak of approximately 9,800 in 1997. For the next several years, and despite relatively stable enrollments, the total number of applicants declined.
Although these overall trends apply to total applications and enrollments for all students, it is important to emphasize that trends for URM applicants, defined as black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American, differ in critical ways. Data reported by the ADEA show that between 1980 and 1999, URM applicants increased slightly from 8 percent to 10.5 percent of total applicants and 10.2 percent of first-year enrollees. A careful look at data for the past decade, however, shows that the number of first-time, first-year URM enrollees in U.S. dental schools declined by 23 percent between 1990 and 1998 (Weaver, 2003). Although the ADEA is pursuing a number of initiatives to increase diversity in U.S. dental schools, it is nevertheless astonishing to note that its December 2000 report stated that among the nation’s (then) 55 dental schools, half of all schools had one or no black/African American first-year students, and nearly half had one or no Hispanic/Latino enrollees. Although gains have been made since then, the 2001 nationwide enrollment of 499 URM dental students is a reminder that despite ongoing efforts, total URM enrollments have not increased appreciably in more than a decade.
In 2002, with a goal of improving these numbers, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJ) implemented a new grant program entitled “Pipeline, Profession, and Practice: Community Based Dental Education.” Through a competitive process, a total of 11 U.S. dental schools were granted approximately $1.5 million per dental school over a 5-year period. In their grant applications, each school identified goals for increasing its URM enrollments. If each school reaches its goals, total URM enrollment would increase by 90 new first-year students—representing a 20 percent increase over the total number of first-year URM students in all U.S. dental schools. The California Endowment is funding California dental schools to conduct the same type of programs; if these schools increase their enrollments to the same extent as those funded by RWJ, the ADEA estimates that