Graduate School Enrollment Down For First Time in 7 Years


Even as students are hearing that a masters degree is the new bachelors, enrollment in graduate school has fallen for the first time in seven years. On Thursday, the Council of Graduate Schools issued a new report which found that graduate school enrollment in the fall of 2010 dipped slightly but significantly, by 1.1 percent. In contrast, graduate school enrollment had increased by 5.5 percent in the fall of 2009 while applications to American graduate schools for entrance in the fall of 2010 actually increased by 8.4 percent in 2010.

The dip in enrollment is surprising because “historically, an economic downturn drives up the number of first-time graduate students as they seek advanced degrees to upgrade their skills to get an edge in the job market,” says the Chronicle of Higher Education. Debra W. Stewart, the president of the council, pinpoints the “protracted recession” as the reason for the drop with people deciding they are better off staying in their jobs instead of returning to school to seek more credentials:

Graduate students who would have pursued degrees in fields that aren’t known for awarding stipends—such as education, business, and public administration, which all saw declines in enrollment, according to the report—might have also seen the money they saved to pay for their education dwindle as they tried to ride out the recession, Ms. Stewart said.

Other possible reasons for the first-time enrollment dip: Companies that once picked up the tab for employees to go to graduate school have cut that perk in the tight economy, federal policy has triggered the phase-out of subsidized graduation-school loans in 2012, and cash-strapped public institutions—which enroll the majority of graduate students—now have fewer stipends to award.

“The bottom line is, It’s about money,” Ms. Stewart said.

While the number of domestic students starting graduate school has shrunk, the number of international students starting has actually increased 4.7 percent from 2009 to 2010. In the same period, domestic student graduate enrollment fell 1.2 percent, a disturbing trend for the US’s economic future: The US Department of Labor estimates that 2.5 million more jobs are projected to require graduate degrees by 2018.

In addition, first-time graduate-school enrollment among U.S. students who are minorities showed troubling declines. Enrollment was up 4.9 percent among Latino/a students but fell by 8.4 percent for black students and 20.6 percent for American Indian and Alaska Native students. First-time graduate-school enrollment fell 0.6 percent for white students and 0.1 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander students. A recent study showed that black, Latino/a and Native American college students benefit when taught by instructors of the same race and/or ethnicity. Certainly the higher enrollments among Latino/a students are very encouraging, but the challenge of having more minorities teaching at the college and university level remains.

The drop in graduate school enrollment is another indicator of how the ongoing economic crisis is whittling away at young people’s opportunities and their futures. More and more, universities are courting students of means; money, not only one’s academic merits and other achievements, is increasingly playing a factor in college admissions. Noting the same happening at the graduate level, Stewart says that “if we get to the point where only people with significant bank accounts can afford graduate education, the country is doomed.”


Related Care2 Coverage

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Do You Really Need a Master’s Degree?


Photo by Poldavo (Alex)


Gary Ansorge
Gary Ansorge6 years ago


,,,people have been forced to work for millennia at jobs they loathed just to survive. In a fair society, everyone can partake of the wealth of society for their basic needs,,,everything else then becomes a question of doing what we love to do, whether that be dog walking, baby sitting or just fishing.

Even the least among us can contribute and I expect MOST will do something interesting to them but only if we can make the transition from a society that promotes economic "survival of the fittest" to a society that promotes compassion for all.

,,,and we wil still have that oldest of professions,,,politics,,,

Gary Ansorge
Gary Ansorge6 years ago

,,,and I wonder how the socialist economies of the world still manage to get along so well, by taxing the haves to support the have-nots. Communalism(as opposed to communism which is a subset of communalism) proposes " To those according to their need. From those according to their ability".

As the world becomes more dependent upon robotic systems, there is less need for grunt labor. The question then becomes "What do we do with all those people unable to contribute to society because they have been replaced by insensate machines?"
Indeed, what will we do when manufacturing becomes something one can do in their garage, using a FabLab(a $ 40,000.00 machine that can literally build other machines), or 3-D printing?
It won't be long(perhaps another 20 years) before we can build just about anything from software(including food). All that is required in this scenario is energy, raw materials and knowledge?

Socialism may lead to a society in which people must be given the basics of life(food, water, air, shelter, clothing, medical care, etc) and in which what we do becomes a status symbol, rather than a way to make money.

Raw, unrestrained capitalism than becomes the "old way" of rapacious greed.

People do science for the sheer joy of learning something new. Artists paint and sculpt just because they can. Musicians play because it feels good. Craftsmen build because they love to see a beautiful object take shape under their hands. People have for millennia been force

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago


Kirsten Spencer
Kirsten Spencer6 years ago

Thank you for the article! And I agree with Christine. Many would go to graduate schools after college to advance their education in order to hopefully have a better chance at a better job. I just recently graduated college and thankfully have been able to find a good job. I do not think at this time that I will go to graduate school. I would rather get infield experience than take the chance right now to just be a lot more in debt.

Carol Traxler
Carol Traxler6 years ago

Money, Money, Money makes the acadimic world go round.

Carol Traxler
Carol Traxler6 years ago

I'm struggeling to get my bachlors degree at 48. I would love to continue on for my Phd, but I can't afford the cost.

Brittany Dudas
Brittany D6 years ago

I would love to go to graduate school, alas, I cannot afford it. I refuse to pay student loans and those ridiculous interest rates.

John Abraham
John Abraham6 years ago

It's because you may not get a job in your chosen field, even with an advanced degree- plus you owe over a hundred thousand dollars in school loans!

Danuta Watola
Danuta W6 years ago

Interesting article, thanks for posting

Suzann F.
Suzann F.6 years ago

Education has little to do with one's employability. If one is poor when entering graduate school and borrows money to the hilt it still will not change the fact of the social class one is born into. The children of the rich will always be employed in the highest paying jobs. Borrowing one's way through graduate school does not purchase membership into that elite club. Indeed, these days the elite classes of the slave economies of the third world are being imported into the system and the club would rather adopt the slave owning class elite from Asia into their fold than to take in a striving, hard working, middle class American. The education is more than worthwhile but do not indulge any fantasies of being able to use it. No employer is going to pay for it or feel any responsibility whatsoever toward the debt that has been taken on for their benefit. A lifetime of crippling debt is the so called "real world" reward for entering and getting a first hand look at a world one can never belong to.