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Marquette Dental Graduates Pioneer Diploma Privilege in Wisconsin, Expediting Licensing Process

Marquette University School of Dentistry marked a historic milestone as it celebrated the first recipients of diploma privilege in the field of dentistry within the State of Wisconsin. Diploma privilege is a policy allowing graduates from certain educational institutions to obtain professional licensure without taking a standardized licensure examination, based on the comprehensive evaluations and competencies demonstrated during their academic program.

On May 10, a reception was held to honor 24 members of the Class of 2024 who will benefit from this expedited licensure process. Spearheaded by the Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board and supported by the Department of Safety and Professional Services and the Wisconsin Dental Association, the diploma privilege eliminates the need for graduates to pass a regional practical examination. Instead, their comprehensive assessments throughout the dental program meet the required competencies.

The hope is that these graduates will remain in Wisconsin to practice, especially in rural and urban areas, which face a shortage of dental professionals. Proponents suggest that assessing students’ practical skills over their entire curriculum is more effective than a 1-day exam. The graduating Marquette students noted their readiness to practice without the additional examination. This initiative not only accelerates the integration of new dentists into the workforce but also addresses critical access issues in underserved regions, but are there risks?

Diploma privilege is more frequently used in the legal field. In Wisconsin, graduates from particular law schools may gain their license to practice law without taking the traditional bar exam. Other states also adopted diploma privilege during the COVID-19 pandemic when sitting in a classroom to take the bar exam became impossible.

Opponents to diploma privilege in the legal setting cite the essential role the bar exam plays in ensuring attorney competence. The bar exam, despite testing many irrelevant legal rules, effectively measures an applicant’s ability to apply legal principles under pressure, a crucial skill for practicing law. Many opponents suggest law school graduation alone does not guarantee competency due to variability in educational quality and subjective grading, while the bar exam provides a standardized, objective measure to level the playing field for all law graduates. It will be interesting to see if diploma privilege grows in the field of dentistry and dental hygiene.

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