Graduate Schools See Jump in Applications Due to Economy

Working toward post graduate degrees has always been an option, but throughout the ’90s large salaries lured students from universities and onto their career paths. Now that the job market is drying up, students are taking a closer look at graduate schools.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported that unemployment jumped from 5.5 percent in February to 5.9 percent in March. Roughly 68,900 Utahns were unemployed in March?a 53 percent jump since March 2001? which is the state’s highest unemployment rate since 1987.

“Graduate applications are always connected to the economy,” said Dave Chapman, dean of the Graduate School. “When the economy is booming, students go out and get jobs. When it isn’t, you see a lot of applications.”

Nationally, applications have increased 5 to 20 percent across all fields of study. The U parallels this national trend, he said.

This week’s U.S. News and World Report said companies that help students prepare for graduate school reported a boom in business. Kaplan Inc. received 24 percent more revenue from its prep courses for the LSAT, the law school admissions test, in 2001 than in 2000, proving that more students are considering returning to the classroom.

U senior Jared Kronenberg said before he applied to law school he weighed the possibility of getting a job to better qualify himself for school.

After hearing back from Syracuse University in New York, Kronenberg said, “I am glad I got in. It is refreshing to know that plan A worked and I won’t have to consider looking for a job yet.”

At the U School of Business, applications to the MBA program have jumped considerably since last year, said Diana Hirschi, director of master’s programs.

In the professional MBA program, designed for people already in the work force, applications have surpassed last year’s total by more than 20 people and the final deadline remains three weeks away, Hirschi said.

“We still expect to get another big chunk of applications before the deadline,” she said.

Because of the large number of applicants the business school is considering opening another section for its professional MBA program.

Applications for the full-time day MBA program jumped 15 percent as well, Hirschi said.

An increase in applications increases competition among students, but in many cases it does not increase the number of students a department may accept.

For instance, in the department of geology and geophysics only 12 to 15 new students are accepted each year because the department helps financially support the students, Chapman said.

The School of Computing received 1,200 applications for only 25 openings, he said.

The U’s graduate enrollment grew gradually through the ’90s, but Chapman estimates if more funding is made available the admissions could boom in the upcoming years.

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