Credit: Emily Cheng

Wharton and Nursing sophomore Samantha Noblejas is taking six and a half credits this semester. She balances her rigorous course-load with a Saturday morning rotation at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, she hopes to work in hospital administration.

Noblejas is a big fan of the five-year Health Care Management dual-degree program, but admits that it is “very demanding.”

Though the Nursing School was unable to provide official numbers by the time of publication, individuals in the program estimate that the dropout rate is at least 50 percent.

“There’s a huge drop-out rate,” Noblejas said. In the class of 2017, three out of 10 students dropped the Nursing degree program. Among the class of 2018, she said, “I think there’s like one or two left.”

Wharton and Nursing freshman Yuming Qin says she is “basically already out of the program.”

Qin applied to the program because she couldn’t decide between a career in healthcare and one in business. “I always felt that business was my academic interest, whereas healthcare was just kind of a better career industry,” she said.

Qin cites a number of motivations for dropping the program. The first is cost. She says spending a fifth year at Penn is very expensive and there are other ways to achieve her goals. “Wharton already has a health care management concentration and it’s difficult to justify spending an extra year and an extra year of tuition especially for something that I wouldn’t necessarily end up utilizing,” she said. “I can’t really afford that.”

Health Care Management is the only dual-degree that cannot be completed in four years. Qin says the length is unique to nursing because clinical hours cannot be sacrificed. “It’s a tradeoff of money, time and sanity,” she said. “I dedicated a lot of time to studying and I felt like I wanted to experience a lot more of the extracurricular side of college.”

Qin says it is common for students to drop the Nursing side of the degree because they find their interests don’t align with the goal of the program. “The moment you realize that ‘maybe I have a wider interest or diverge from the health care path’ then the opportunity cost of staying in the program becomes kind of steep,” she said.

“That isn’t as much of a problem with the other dual degrees because of their wider flexibilities,” Qin said. Whereas the other dual degree programs allow students to choose their concentrations in Wharton, Health Care Management dual-degree students are locked into their majors in both schools.

Despite dropping out, Qin speaks highly of the Health Care Management dual-degree program. “I don’t think there is another program like it in the country,” she said.

The high dropout rate for the class of 2018 came as a shock to upperclassmen. “That was a big thing this past semester. I heard a lot of freshmen were dropping out and we were very shocked,” Noblejas said.

While she will stay with the program, Noblejas understands where the freshmen are coming from. “Of course it depends on preference,” she said. “I think both sides are a lot of work. Both sides are very demanding.”

Students looking to transfer into the program can apply for an internal transfer in May. Wylie Thomas, Vice Dean for the Office of Institutional Advancement, cautions that any such decision would be made only with academic merit in mind. “Admissions decisions are based on these criteria and not a desire or necessity to fill open spaces,” she said in an emailed statement.

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