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Analysis of Financial Barriers Experienced by Prospective Genetic Counseling Students.

PURPOSE: High costs of applying to genetic counseling graduate programs (GCGPs) are likely a barrier to workforce diversification. We sought to determine application costs and assess differences between individuals of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds in medicine (hURM) and non-hURM applicants.

METHODS: Applicants to GCGPs between 2005-2020 were surveyed about application history, related expenses, volunteer hours, and financial resources; 383 responses were analyzed.

RESULTS: Median total application costs (MTAC) were $2,634, $4,762, and $5,607 (one, two, and three or more application cycles, respectively). Interview-related items (which includes travel) had the highest median cost (one application cycle: $879). Among those who applied to multiple cycles, hURM respondents had higher MTAC than those of non-hURM ($6,713 versus $4,762, p=0.03) and lower median total volunteer hours (246 versus 381, p=0.03). Parental education level differed by hURM status (p=0.04). Median financial contribution from parents with and without advanced degrees varied significantly (60% vs 2%, p=0.0009).

CONCLUSION: Significant costs are incurred during the GCGP application process, but notable differences in costs and resources were observed between hURM and non-hURM applicants. Stakeholders within the profession should implement strategies to reduce financial barriers and the resulting inequities in the application process.

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