resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
The Spirit of the Point
After receiving a large amount of positive feedback on my San Zhen Protocols series, I have decided to focus this article on some relevant clinical aspects of acupuncture therapy prior to moving on to San Zhen Protocols III.
Medicalization and Mindfulness
The past several years have seen a veritable explosion of research on mindfulness. Research abstracts we've published in each issue of Health Insights Today under the heading "Mind-Body News" have increasingly reported on studies about mindfulness interventions.
A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
Rethinking GMO: Less Panic, More Context
Some of you may have noticed that after writing parts 1 and 2 of “Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption” a while back [Nov. 15, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014 issues], part 3 never appeared.
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
If You Get a Request for Records, Respond!
In our previous two articles, we discussed two of the main reasons for denial when chiropractic records are reviewed by Medicare contractors.
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
December, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 12
Tremors in the Massage Industry
By Pete Whitridge
Change, challenges and consolidation have created recent tremors in the industry and I have been asked to comment on some current trends in massage education. I will address school sustainability, massage training and accreditation issues here. I will address other school and education issues in future articles.
Over the last 25 years, the number of massage schools has grown to approximately 1,600 schools. The 2008 market collapse and resulting recession have had a dramatic affect on all massage school programs. Whether sole proprietor, career training institute or corporate-owned school, enrollments have dropped significantly.
In summary, we have 300 fewer schools in the massage universe since 2009. Student enrollments are down 18.8% since 2011, and down 50% since 2005. We have 50% more schools then we had in 1998, yet we are educating a similar number of students. More schools and fewer students make for a highly competitive and fractured market.
administrators and teachers, I have identified a few factors that contribute to school closures: State school licensure requirements, Federal Department of Education "gainful employment" and "placement" requirements, lack of quality lead generation, competition with larger massage programs with better financial resources, staff and infrastructure. Practically all corporate, university and career training institutions are accredited. This fact allows these schools to out compete small, owner-operated schools by offering grants and loans.
We have more than 1,300 massage schools in this country. 52% of schools are proprietary, yet only 20% of proprietary schools are accredited. This means proprietary schools have yet to embrace accreditation as a means to stabilize their programs by accessing Title IV funding. It might be time to reassess this situation.
Does being accredited make a difference? The ABMP biennial school enrollment census suggests accreditation does make a difference. When proprietary schools are compared based on accreditation status, accredited schools enroll close to 50% more students than non-accredited proprietary schools. The differences in enrollment between accredited and non-accredited schools could be a market driver in the future.
Additionally, Career Training Institutes enroll more than two times more then proprietary schools according to the census. All CTI's are accredited and have the infrastructure to recruit students for a variety of programs. Maybe it is time to review your long-term sustainability by exploring the value of obtaining accreditation. Maybe its time to explore synergistic trainings that help establish your school as an education hub. Whether esthetics, personal training, or yoga therapy, attracting health-oriented leads may help enrollment at your school.
Is accreditation the answer for small schools? The report shows approximately 60% of massage programs hold some form of accreditation. These programs offer student loans and grants and are able to demonstrate financial stability. Accredited schools report yearly to their commissioners and renew on a five-year cycle. While many of these accredited schools are able "to withstand the bumps of competition and a sluggish U.S. economy," these schools still face limited income potential if they only enroll an average of 20 to 35 students per year!
The ABMP enrollment census outlines the average number of students enrolled per year for each category of school: CTI, college/university, corporate-owned, public and proprietary. Four of the five categories of school enroll 35 or fewer students per year, with CTI's enrolling an average of 85 students per year. Yet, the CTI's have closed programs at a larger rate as compared to proprietary schools. This means CTI's are not as profitable as they need to be and are closed. The CTI's will move on to something more profitable. I speculate that many low enrollment CTI' and corporate schools will move on to offer and focus on more lucrative programs such as respiratory therapy, fitness training or nursing education. Federal placement and gainful employment rules will also force training centers to enroll students for programs that actually provide jobs and career longevity. Education is a business and when the numbers don't warrant having a program, programs will be shuttered. Be ready to absorb market share when a program is closed in your area. CTI's can add and subtract programs based on enrollment and profitability.
Floods of Change
What about the small schools? It's clear there are hundreds of small programs in our field. Can these low enrollment programs last? Is it profitable for a program to have one to five instructors, maintain enrollments and management to compete with larger education corporations, community colleges and the newest players on the scene, the osteopathic and chiropractic colleges such as Bastyr, University of Western States and the University of Bridgeport?
The answer for some small schools owners is decidedly, "No." For example, the Core Institute in Tallahassee, Fla., has shuttered its entry-level program. They are now focusing only on continuing education and specialty certifications. The Atlanta School of Healing Arts (ASHA) was shuttered because the Federal Department of Education demanded a large bond from the school to remain Title IV eligible. The school was not able to meet this requirement and the DOE revoked eligibility. Finally, the loss of a massage school to flooding. Did this owner have reserves to survive until the location can be rebuilt? Will this school be able to re-open, enroll students and survive another day?
I encourage all small school owners to work together to support high standards of entry-level education, qualified teachers in these programs and financial responsibility so that the school has reserves to cushion a blow to enrollment. Institutional accreditation may solve some of these issues by providing guidance, support and peer review. Eligibility for Title IV funds is also an important consideration when applying for accreditation.
Will accreditation help my school? Isn't it expensive? How much paperwork is required? The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is working to help schools wishing to obtain accredited status by formulating a pre-accredited status where a school would work toward full accreditation over a two year period by applying with COMTA, demonstrating activity in alignment with a Self Study Report and reporting back to the commission yearly. The COMTA commissioners met on October 23, 2013, and I understand the group is very interested in supporting schools in this area.
I encourage all school owners, administrators, CE providers and LMTs to volunteer as peer reviewers with COMTA to experience the process of traveling for a site visit and evaluating fellow school programs. Peer review volunteer opportunities are available throughout the year. You can apply as a volunteer whether you are an educator, LMT or compliance wonk like me. COMTA also has three commissioner positions open for election this year. They are recruiting commissioners in the areas of esthetics practitioner, an employer position and a public member. If interest, visit www.comta.org/about-comta/commissioners-elections-appointments/.
Want more students? Need to compete with within your market? Accreditation could make the difference. Evaluate your school curriculum and administration compared to the COMTA standards. Using these standards will help you as you plan for future sustainability. Even if you just volunteer as a peer reviewer, you will have a better understanding of the process and can evaluate the pros and cons for your school.
A historic school closes and sends shock waves across the education community. The Boulder College of Massage Therapy announced in June 2013, that they would be closing their doors. Many educators and therapists shuddered deeply. Even after an angel investor helped temporarily reopen the school, BCMT permanently shuttered its doors on September 26, 2013. For more information, visit http://bcmt.org/.
This is a big issue in our field. The reasons stated on the BCMT site are chilling and unfortunately, familiar.
"...This is the second closure of BCMT in the last six months. The first closure was the result of multiple factors related to the financial health of the school over the past several years. However, in the last 18 months, BCMT had increased enrollment, revamped its curriculum, raised job placement rates and improved its financial solvency. Despite these efforts, the school was unable to overcome a constellation of issues related to the previous years of financial losses and the decrease in value of the real estate asset, the BCMT campus. Multiple attempts to reach an agreement with the real estate bondholder, as well as multiple attempts to be acquired by larger educational entities, were unsuccessful."
We would be wise to reflect further on what forces brought such a fine program to close. "As a founder of the International School of Bodywork (IPSB), I find BCMT's recent closure especially troubling. My school was born of a similar ilk of human potential and spiritual seekers. Both schools have attracted individuals wanting a top-notch vocational education balanced by artistic and humanistic values. Both schools have similar approvals, institutional objectives, established and award-winning faculty," said Carol Osborne.
Carole also outlined more issues all massage schools face:
Despite these challenges, many schools have adapted and enhanced their programs to meet the needs of the 21st century student and the current marketplace. Yet, many graduates still struggle to establish an economically viable practice in these weak financial times. Interestingly, we also hear from many spa and massage franchise owners that there are not enough quality massage therapists. The somewhat contradictory nature of these developments can be bewildering and they merit some meaningful discussions between schools, educators and employers.
How can we have so many schools, yet so few "quality" therapists? Looking over the data from the 2013 survey, four of the five categories of schools have less the 25 students per year and even the career schools average only 85 graduates per year. I speculate that these smaller programs have only one or two teachers in the classroom and the teachers may not have extensive teacher training but are rather content experts; a successful therapist in town.
This scenario has played out many times over the past decade as massage schools expanded into Corporate/CC/University settings. These schools tend to hire content experts with some experience in the field and then recruit from alumni when seeking replacement teachers or teaching assistants. Teacher pay is not known to be more than $25/hour at most colleges and universities. Teachers in these small career training or community colleges are operating without much peer support and tend to have a high turnover rate.
Growth within the massage education industry has ended. Will your school thrive, survive or close? Could acceptance of voluntary accreditation and the imposition of strict standards for licensure, training and enforcement create more consolidation, weed out weak schools and force the remaining schools to step up their game? Massage as a "growth" center peaked back in 2010, and has been on a downward trend ever since.
In future articles, we'll look at entry-level education, an ongoing issue for the last few years. I will offer a report on the ELAP project, the recommended standards and their ramifications for massage schools, teachers and administrators.
Pete Whitridge currently is the President of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE). He is a faculty member and former Director of Education for the Florida School of Massage in Gainesville, Fla., and past chairman of the Florida Board of Massage Therapy, and past legislative chair for the Florida State Massage Therapy Association.
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