First-time enrollments at U.S. graduate schools fall despite increased applications

Bobby Blanchard

While UT saw the number of first-time undergraduates increase by 900, its number of first-time graduate students fell slightly, which is part of a national trend.

Nationally from 2010 to 2011, applications at 655 public and private graduate schools increased by 4.3 percent, but first-time enrollments fell by 1.7 percent, a report by the Council of Graduate Schools said Friday. UT saw a 1.01 percent increase in applications, but its enrollment of first-year graduate students decreased 1 percent.

Pat Ellison, associate director of admissions and assistant dean of graduate studies, said UT received 26,416 applications for the fall 2011 semester and 26,554 applications for the fall 2012 semester, an increase of 138 applications. Ellison said UT admitted 3,072 graduate students in the fall 2011 semester and then 3,057 in the fall 2012 semester, a 15-student decrease.

“Our changes are not extreme,” Ellison said. “I wouldn’t say we’re seeing the [national] trend. We’re pretty flat. For us it’s just not that big of difference.”

Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said in a statement that on a national level, the decrease is concerning.

“While the 1.7 percent decrease in first-time enrollment is not dramatic, the fact that we are now in the second year of reversed growth is a sign that we must respond with strong investments in graduate programs and student funding,” Stewart said.

From 2009 to 2010, the percentage of first-year graduate students dropped by 1.1 percent. In her statement, Stewart said it is concerning that the number of first-year enrolled graduate students has decreased two years in a row.

Ellison said UT sees a small but steady increase in its number of applications each year, but its enrollment numbers remain stable.

The Council of Graduate Schools’ report said students are seeing that the money that comes from a graduate degree is worth the money they spend on it.

“Graduate education is a cornerstone of a thriving, highly skilled workforce, and a graduate degree holds out lifetime benefits for individual students,” Stewart said in her statement. “The 4.3 percent increase in application numbers reveals that students are eager to attend graduate school.”

Not counting law students, there are currently 11,128 graduate students enrolled at UT.

Printed on Wednesday, October 3, 2012 as: Graduate student applications grow despite decrease in enrollment