Graduate Enrollment Decreasing Due to Economic Factors
Master's still better than bachelor's but does not stop declining graduate student enrollment.
September 8, 2005 8:28 PM
A decrease in graduate enrollment at SF State over the last two years has been affected by a complex dichotomy surrounding the ebb and flow of the United States economy.
Although it has been common for students to pursue their master’s degree to aid their future endeavors, SF State has been recording a decrease in graduate student enrollment. In a report compiled last year by the Office of University and Budget Planning, the amount of graduate students enrolled has decreased 19 percent since the fall of 2002.
Since graduate enrollment for fall 2005 is still being processed, Vice President of Enrollment Jo Volkert cannot comment on the status of the trend this semester.
“It’s a counter-intuitive process. Right now in particular, graduate enrollments are down, but there is a big increase in the freshman class,” said Volkert. “It’s all internal waves-when one goes up, the other goes down.”
Volkert explained that graduate enrollment is a reactionary process which tends to follow the rise and fall of job opportunities within the economy. In the face of economic growth, jobs are more accessible to students with undergraduate degrees, but during an economic recession, students find greater competition in the workforce, causing them to resort to graduate school.
Although supplemental employment has caused the numbers of graduate enrollments to decrease, there are still some students who feel that graduate school is the only way to beat out competitors in the job market. Brad Weber, a 32-year-old graduate student, still has two more years before he receives his master’s degree in business administration.
“A bachelor’s is not enough to prosper in the business world. My peers who did not continue their education are starting in entry level jobs-the kind of jobs that they could get without a degree,” said Weber. “I also know of a number of people that have their bachelor’s degree in other business areas who cannot find decent career-making jobs.”
According to Volkert, the waning of graduate students is also due to the repercussions of the terror attacks.
“International students are frequently more likely to be graduate students but after 9/11, it made it much harder for students to attend the graduate programs here,” said Volkert.
Victor Cordell, director of the College of Business graduate program, explained that the aftermath of September 11 has made it more difficult for international students to obtain student visas. The government has applied stricter laws for students entering the country, forcing international students to pursue other alternatives.
In a statistical summary provided by the Office of International Programs, international graduates entering SF State has declined 20 percent in the past two years.
“We’ve been hit hard because of 9/11. International and Asian students in particular are the heart and soul of our graduate program,” said Cordell. “International prospective students look for other alternatives, and regretfully there are other alternatives.”
Australia, United Kingdom and China have been seizing the opportunity to establish their own graduate programs by recruiting international students who are unable to attend graduate schools in the United States. China alone is planning 400 MBA programs, according to Cordell.
Saurabh Khandelwal, a graduate student from India who has been attending SF State for one year does not fully agree with the faculty members who conclude that September 11 is the main reason for the low numbers of international graduate students attending the university.
“The cost of living is quite expensive here,” said Khandelwal. “Also, India has an increase in opportunities and situation is vastly different than it was five years ago.”
The accessibility of the Internet has also played a part in the decrease of graduate enrollment. Online programs have made it possible for students to obtain their MBA online for less money and time than attending a conventional university.
Cordell says some online programs are credible, but would generally advise against using them.
“Most employers are still going to discriminate online programs because they realize they don’t get the richness, the balance, the challenge, the interaction with other students and faculty members that you get from a real program,” Cordell said.
With factors such as job opportunities, the threat of terrorism, and international and on line competition, Cordell said it is difficult to determine when the declining graduate enrollment will bounce back.
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