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15 Acupuncture Schools with Failing Programs in the 2017 Official Gainful Employment List

  • 18 Mar 2017 4:39 PM
    Reply # 4675378 on 4671064

    * * * *  At the root of this lies one key question:

    If it costs money (say, $20-50k, depending on location) to start a successful acupuncture practice after graduation, is it ethical to accept students who need to borrow money to attend acupuncture school?

    Furthermore, should acupuncture schools be required to disclose that full-time acupuncture employment is extremely rare, particularly for those with less than five years’ experience, so that students know *not* to expect employment after graduation?

    Graduates with student loans leave school in significant debt due to skyrocketing tuition costs, and either have to take on more debt as business loans (high interest rate/dangerous), or find employment as acupuncturists.  Acupuncturist employment is usually very part-time, and very underpaid, particularly for those with less than five years’ experience.  (Practitioners offering unpaid or minimum wage “internships” to new grads are not uncommon.)  Students should explicitly be told going in that their success depends on their ability to fund their own private practice as business owners, and that they should *not* expect to find gainful employment in the field as employees.

    In my perspective, the only reason the list of schools isn’t longer is that the other schools are better at fudging numbers.  It would be very interesting to see how the study would change if the government were collecting the data, not the schools.  School surveys ask enough detailed information to render the survey non-anonymous, particularly given the small cohorts involved and the school’s familiarity with the alumni.

    The current bonanza of doctoral programs, leading toward making the doctorate the requirement for entry into the profession, encouraging students to take on more debt with not much better job prospects, will only magnify the issue exponentially.  (I know a doctoral grad with $500k in acupuncture school debt. That’s ludicrous.)  Word will continue to get out regarding the low success rate/high student loan debt burden of graduates, and the negative return on investment on the education; tuition will continue to increase, enrollment will go down, and schools will struggle to remain open.

    The bottom line is that given how schools’ tuition bills have soared in the double digit percentages over the last ten years, graduates are left with a negative ROI.

    It’s a ticking time bomb, one of the schools’ own making for not encouraging job growth and for the leapfrogging of their executive salaries.  It’s time to pay the piper.

  • 18 Mar 2017 10:14 PM
    Reply # 4675734 on 4671064

    "If it costs money (say, $20-50k, depending on location) to start a successful acupuncture practice after graduation, is it ethical to accept students who need to borrow money to attend acupuncture school?"

    This is precisely the logic which underlies the Gainful Employment initiative. If a student takes on enormous debt and is unable to find work in a 5 star restaurant (culinary schools like Le Cordon Bleu)  or working for TSA (certificate and AA criminal justice programs) or founding the next Paul Mitchell franchise (cosmetologyethetician and schools like Marinello Schools Beauty)...then the program/school has failed to prepare the graduate to be abler to pay down the loans. Per the Ted Mitchell/Arne Duncan USED the proliferation of hundreds of "predatory for-profit" schools - as they are known in the media and government - is decidedly unethical.

    Vocations like culinary arts or cosmetology or media arts/technology or fashion design have been tarnished for their lousy workforce outcomes. Acupuncture is a very small player in this world of actions by USED aimed at for-profit schools.

    --Steven Stumpf

    Last modified: 20 Mar 2017 5:46 PM | AAAOM Admin (Administrator)
  • 18 Mar 2017 10:26 PM
    Reply # 4675738 on 4671064

    The response to the original post has been incredible. I received a call from someone who works at one of the schools on the GE Final List [you can find the GE Final List form Jan 2017 at this link:]. We talked about whether the list was "final" since his school has elected to appeal their inclusion on the list, as has each of the 12 schools that have filed a complaint with USED.

    He suggested that I look again at the Nov 2016 GE list where I would find out I was wrong about there being only TWO AOM schools on the first November 2016 list. I did look. He is correct. There are 16 AOM schools on that list. There are two less on the Jan 2017 “final” list. Tri-State had been on the Nov list but managed to have one of its two programs released from the Jan list. I extend Tri-State the same congratulations I will extend to those acu schools that win their appeal.

    The school rep explained to me that each school had to survey its grads to establish their incomes and hopefully win their appeal. Each school also had to make a cogent and persuasive argument to the USED GE folks that the income figures from their school surveys are more accurate than the government’s income figures which come from the Social Security Admin.

    While I was reviewing the Nov and Jan lists I checked what the USED had recorded as the mean and median income figures for the graduates of each of the AOM schools. You can find the Nov 2016 list here and the Jan 2017 list here

    The average earnings for AOM schools on the Nov 2016 and the Jan 2017 list was $25,601. The median earnings was $23,905. In both cases one school had significantly higher earnings - like in the 30s and 50s. What do you think of these income figures? Do they seem familiar? Are the school figures compiled by the US Dept of Education more accurate or less accurate than what the school surveys found? Or what you as an acupuncturist know and believe? Findings from our workforce paper were higher: “more than 70% of acupuncturists work fewer than 40 hours weekly; approximately 76% work in solo practice or in shared space with other acupuncturists; more than 70% of the national sample have been in practice 15 years or less; and median income is between $40 000 and $50 000. A preponderance of acupuncturists is less than 50 years of age, and fewer than 15% of all respondents have been in practice more than 20 years.” Source:

    Our paper looked at self-report survey data collected as an adjunct to “occupational/job” analyses conducted by the California Acu Board and NCCAOM. Those data do not come close to the GE figures. I once asked an acupuncturist if he ever filled out AOM income/practice surveys? “When I’m making money I do.”

    Does this suggest the schools’ figures are more accurate than the federal USED conclusions? It would be great if the schools that are part of the complaint shared their data. We can all agree the profession needs more transparency. I hope the schools that have filed their complaint will publish their survey data outcomes.

    --Steven Stumpf

    Last modified: 20 Mar 2017 5:47 PM | AAAOM Admin (Administrator)
  • 19 Mar 2017 2:44 AM
    Reply # 4675972 on 4671064
    Acu B

    I think we are all missing the big picture and arguing semantics.  We consider ourselves Doctors or upper level healthcare providers on par with MDs, DCs, DPTs, DDSs etc... The difference between them and us is that upon graduation they are all able to find gainful employment in a variety of settings working in hospitals or private practices owned by more experienced professionals as associates or what have you until they learn the business side of things, develop a patient base, and establish their name in a community.  That opportunity simply does not exist for acupuncturists and it is rediculous to suggest that a student not only have 20-50K extra dollars laying around to float their losses while they build a practice, but have the business acumen to start a successful practice from scratch on the first try with no previous experience.  No other healthcare practitioner is asked to carry such a heavy burden.  It would be too much for most of them just as it is for most of us and that is the reason that we are failing.

  • 19 Mar 2017 10:58 AM
    Reply # 4676255 on 4671064

    The article didn't mention the sharp increase in the cost of Acupuncture education.   When I graduated in 2004 the cost of a master in OM was $36,000.  Now it is 2 to 3 times that and schools are pushing their doctorate degrees that cost even more though they do not provide more income.  Did the training of Lic. Ac. really cost that much more or have schools gotten a little greedy?  

  • 19 Mar 2017 11:54 AM
    Reply # 4676291 on 4671064
    Me 2

    I agree with the article.  For all the education I received, I am unable to make a decent living.  In my area, the income level is such that patients are unable to pay more than $30 - $40 per treatment.  The medical profession is just now   kind of accepting acupuncture as a viable form of health care.  Usually, when the doctor is "done" with the patient. 

    I was told in school, I would be able to have a viable practice, but, not really told anything about practice management.  Most teachers were from the class ahead of mine (or two classes ahead), so they were not the most qualified.  I was trained in how to pass the board.  

    I pay my student loan because it is my debt.  It comes out of my social security check.  I am not bitter about the problem, but would NOT advise anyone to go into this medicine.  There are to many inherent problems attached.  I guess I should have stayed in Chicago, where it was easier to practice.  But I moved to Southern Colorado, and it is not a viable career.  Insurance does not cover acupuncture, like it should.  It costs too much to keep up with your licensure, CEU's, and malpractice.  

  • 19 Mar 2017 12:35 PM
    Reply # 4676325 on 4671064
    One factor frequently overlooked in these discussions is the reimbursement practices of third-party insurers. Having observed the development of this field for well over thirty years, I'm struck by the way that insurers have succeeded in ratcheting down what they'll pay for acupuncture to about 1/4-1/3 of what they were paying 30 years ago in inflation adjusted terms.

    This appears to be a regional issue, with some states and locales much more heavily impacted by monopolistic corporations leveraging their marketing power than in others. It is not just acupuncture that's affected ... in some regions (like SoCal) a trend towards small independent medical docs selling their practices to local hospitals in order to avail themselves of the bargaining power such alliances provide in negotiating/billing has been the subject of consistent coverage in the press.

    Of course ... hospitals aren't nearly as interested in buying a local acupuncture practice as say ... a cardiologist's practice.

    Additionally, Emperor's College and PCOS are both located in communities that have seen the middle class eviscerated in recent years by accelerations in the cost of living (largely housing costs) and layoffs in major industries.

    These two trends, together, may explain much about their appearance on this list.

  • 19 Mar 2017 7:04 PM
    Reply # 4676820 on 4676325
    Ignaz_Semmelweis wrote: 

    Additionally, Emperor's College and PCOS are both located in communities that have seen the middle class eviscerated in recent years by accelerations in the cost of living (largely housing costs) and layoffs in major industries.

    That too.  With high cost of living and high interest loans, my Master's debt is now over $295k.  I can't find enough work as a Lic. Acu., & think it unwise to take out more loans at this point.
  • 19 Mar 2017 8:42 PM
    Reply # 4676893 on 4671064

    I have never received a survey from my school.  I have never earned enough to support myself doing acupuncture and have finally given up my practice.  I work as an RN which is far more lucrative!!!! 

  • 20 Mar 2017 1:51 AM
    Reply # 4677206 on 4673447
    Me wrote:

     I have a few words for the acupuncturist who wants some "student relief"  for their loans.   Interesting phrase "students relief".  What that actually means is They want somebody else who does pay their taxes, who has paid their ow loans and is working hard and is successful, like another successful acupuncturist, to pay for this student. And this is because They are not willing to work hard, or full-time, or work smart, in order to pay back the debt that I personally signed for and accumulated.   Do they think that the government actually grows this money on trees to help students who don't know how to be successful once they leave school? 

    What many grads are looking for is relief from exploitative tuition hikes and outrageous interest rates.

    Please list:

    1. The total amount you spent on your acupuncture education and business start-up.

    2. How you funded it.

    3. The duration in years of your acupuncture degree.

    4. How much tuition cost while you attended, and during what years (compared with 2017 US dollars).

    Practitioners who earned a certification and license for only two years' education and who had tuition low enough that they could work part-time while attending class and accrued no debt have a very, very different experience than students of today, going to school full-time for 3.5-6 years, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, despite working part-time on top of full-time school. I know of students who slept in their cars to earn their degree.

    Don't you dare presume to declare people as not willing to work hard, or full-time, or work smart.  Do the research, and educate yourself on the current state of affairs, instead of self-righteously defaulting to victim blaming.

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