Miami University’s Graduate School has received a higher number of applications this year, perhaps thanks to the struggling economy.
“Applications are up fairly traumatically, about 40 percent, and we don’t know why,” said Bruce Cochrane, dean of the Graduate School.
Cochrane noted the increase is occurring across all disciplines and said it could possibly be due to the current economy or to changes in departmental admission procedures.
Because deadlines are still months away, Cochrane did not want to make a final conclusion.
“My bottom line is that we are watching this very closely,” Cochrane said. “Stay tuned. We’ll know April 15.”
Graduate institutions nationwide have reported similar significant increases in applications compared to previous years, and first-year graduate student Amanda Ginter is not surprised.
“We have been talking about this in my professional issues class,” Ginter said. “Studies indicate that when the economy is weak, more people turn to education to make themselves more marketable.”
According to Cochrane, academic departments within the Graduate School individually recruit and make offers to potential applicants.
Michael Crowder, chair of the graduate recruiting committee for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, said he does not expect to see an increase in applications this year.
According to Crowder, the chemistry department has typically attracted students from small liberal-arts institutions and with fewer American students studying the physical sciences, the department now has to compete with bigger schools for those same students.
Crowder also said he could not yet make a strong statement about this year’s domestic applications, because students often wait until February to apply.
“It makes sense to me, because they are now taking the GRE or even the MCAT,” Crowder said. “They are also working on fall semester courses, which would be upper-level chemistry courses-they want to do well in those.”
While graduate school could be a safe route in a sluggish job market, applicants may still run into problems. According to Crowder, there could be fewer research and teaching assistantships available in the future.
“To the university, a graduate assistantship is not only a salary, but it is also the tuition and fees that the student would have paid,” Crowder said. “Miami will have to evaluate how many assistantships it can afford. We’ll have to look at that very carefully.”
Michelle Taylor, a senior English major applying to graduate school, expressed the same concerns.
“You are only supposed to go to a program if you are fully (compensated),” Taylor said. “I was taught to say no if it didn’t. Is that going to change?”
Ginter, a Miami alum currently in the Family Studies graduate program, said she has not personally felt the effects of the struggling economy.
“I’m not as concerned as I would’ve been now that I’m pursuing my master’s degree,” Ginter said.
Neither Taylor nor Ginter said they considered graduate school to avoid entering the workforce. Instead, they decided to seek more education to become further qualified for their respective careers.
However, both hope to eventually teach at the university level, and with Miami’s current hiring freeze, they worry what the job market will look like once they complete their advanced degrees.
“We are always told that the job market is really hard-that you need to consider what you’re getting into,” Taylor said. “I’m hoping by then that things will get better.”