The down economy is driving up graduate school applications across the country — and the University’s numbers are no different.
Director of Graduate Services Krista Haynes said the number of applications for graduate school is growing, but the growth is not as steep as it has been in the past.
“In the fall term of 2008 to 2009, there was an increase of 516 [applicants] for that fall term,” Haynes said. “However, we had an increase of 891 between 2007 and 2008.”
But Haynes said her department was unsure of the causes behind the changing numbers.
Maureen Grasso, dean of the Graduate School, said the slight decrease in growth could be due to the economy.
“It was a very uncertain time, [and] students were unsure about receiving funding whether through loans, grants, or assistantships,” she said.
Haynes said the school only calculated numbers for fall semester when determining trends.
“Generally speaking, when the University is looking at enrollment, they pay attention to the fall term. Roughly, we’ll see 10,000 [applicants] a year, [and] 8,600 are for fall term,” she said.
Ben Benson is studying for a master’s degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations.
“The current incoming class is the largest class [the University] has ever had,” Benson said. “It’s a record. More students are coming here despite cutbacks and more people applying,” he said.
By the end of 2008, many departments had to cut back significantly, he said. Some departments only accepted the amount of students they could fund.
“Even though there is more competition, students can hunker down and wait out the current recession,” he said.
Benson discussed the benefits of graduate school in tough economic times.
“A lot of it has to do with improving human capital, acquiring new skills [and] temporarily taking yourself out of the job market,” Benson said. “The recession is an opportunity to grow.”
The School of Law is also seeing an increase in student applications.
Paul Rollins, the administrative director of the University’s law school, said the applicant number varies over time. During the fall semester of 2009, there were more than 3,000 applications, he said.
“That’s the largest we’ve ever seen here,” he said. “Two years ago, during the fall of 2008 we had 2,283 applications.”
A small part of the increase is due to job loss in the down economy, Rollins said.
“The conventional wisdom is that anytime [there is] an economic downturn there is a rise in law school or grad school applicants,” he said. “There’s definitely an interest for people who have just graduated. It might make sense to go ahead and do it during the economic downturn. It makes you more competitive when you do enter the job market.”