USC to close dental hygiene program

dental hygiene classroom

John Hobbs MA '14


02 Feb 21

Dental school vows to continue supporting profession with career advancement training opportunities.

THE HERMAN OSTROW SCHOOL OF DENTISTRY OF USC has announced it will no longer be matriculating new dental hygiene students, making the Class of 2021 the last to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from USC.

The move comes as USC undergraduate admission standards continue to rise, making it more difficult for prospective students to be admitted into USC.

“The higher admission standards were making it much more difficult to fill our dental hygiene classes with the right candidates to continue our longstanding tradition of excellence,” said Diane Melrose, director of the dental hygiene program.

The decision also comes as “new programs that offer both a bachelor’s degree and certificate in dental hygiene opened in recent years at a significantly lower cost,” the announcement said.

An ongoing commitment

Despite the decision, the USC dental school remains committed to supporting the profession.

“We aim to explore new ways to elevate the profession while supporting our community of amazing USC dental hygienists,” the school’s announcement said. “We are grateful to our faculty members who have helped to produce a caliber of dental hygienist like no other, and to our graduates who continue to be the most sought after in the profession.”

The dental hygiene program began in 1928 as a two-year certificate program. In the 1940s, dental hygiene students had the choice between pursuing a certificate or a bachelor’s of science degree in dental hygiene. Then in 1962, the program became a bachelor’s degree program only.

“We urge on our dental hygiene schools the conduct of such courses of study as will not only make technically proficient dental hygienists, but also produce women who can educate and think in terms of highest service, remembering that education is not a static thing, but is ever changing to meet the requirements of the people,” said USC dental hygiene program founder Cora Ueland in 1929 about the move to a bachelor’s degree.

Over the years, class sizes have fluctuated from just two or three students during the war years to 53 students in 1996. In the Class of 2021, there are only 20 students.

“Even if the program is winding down, we, as educators, are not,” Melrose said. “With this last class, we intend to impart the same superior knowledge, skills and competence that the world has come to know USC dental hygienists for.”

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