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Luverne radiology program steady while others flounder

WORTHINGTON -- It is not yet clear how the recent closure of a small radiologic technology program in Willmar will affect Minnesota West's Luverne program.

Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar announced last month it would discontinue its long-standing program to train radiologic technologists.

According to the West Central Tribune, the last class will graduate in 2012, but the application process for the two-year education program has ended. The program admits six students per year.

Hospital officials cited the cost of the program, around $300,000 per graduating class, as the reason for eliminating the School of Radiologic Technology.

The Radiologic Technology Program offered through the Luverne Educational Center for Health Careers, part of the Minnesota West system, is a 24-consecutive-month program that allows a maximum of 24 students at a time, said Tonya Koepsell, the program director.

Twenty-one students are currently enrolled in the program; 13 in their first year and eight in their second.

"The program started in 2007 based on the fact there was a strong need in rural communities for registered radiographers," Koepsell explained. "We're a relatively new program. I do think we'll be sustainable because we have great support from our college and surrounding communities. We're fiscally responsible."

There is usually a waiting list for the program, and 30 people have applied for the coming year.

"In general we have the interest," she said. "The problem is retaining students in the program. People think this is what they want to do and then they find out it's not."

Because of the small number of students in the Rice program in Willmar, Koepsell said she isn't sure how the program's closure could affect enrollment in the Minnesota West program, but left open the potential for partnerships in that area.

"We are willing to check into any clinical affiliates in the Willmar area to send students there in order to grow our program," she added.

Laura Grevas writes for the Worthington Daily Globe, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.