Graduate degree-seeking students expected to increase

GVL Photo Illustration / Rachel Dwyer
Applying for graduate school can be a stressful thing for students

GVL Photo Illustration / Rachel Dwyer Applying for graduate school can be a stressful thing for students

Samantha Butcher

As the U.S. economy continues to struggle, many students look toward graduate school as an alternative to the increasingly competitive job market.

A recent study by Kaplan Test Prep predicted the number of students seeking graduate degrees will increase by 9 percent from last year based on the number of students who have registered for the Graduate Record Exam. In 2009, global registration for the exam exceeded 675,000.

Jeffrey Potteiger, dean of graduate studies at Grand Valley State University, listed some possibilities for the projected increase.

“Several reasons include the competitiveness of the job market, new and emerging skills requirements for workers, loss of less-skilled jobs and growing fields of study like health care and international affairs,” he said.

GVSU graduate enrollment has remained consistent throughout the past five years with 3,555 graduate students currently enrolled. Graduate students comprise 14.5 percent of the student body at GVSU, according to the Office of Institutional Analysis.

Potteiger said he expects those numbers to increase.

“Which programs grow will be dependent on resource availability and our continued ability to offer timely high quality programs to potential students,” he added.

A recent report published by the Council of Graduate Schools also saw increases in graduate school enrollment across the board. More than 1.7 million students applied for admission to graduate programs beginning in fall 2009 with a 45-percent acceptance rate.

“Applications for admission to U.S. graduate schools increased 8.3 percent between fall 2008 and fall 2009,” the report concluded. “Between fall 1999 and fall 2009, graduate applications grew at an average annual rate of 4.8 percent. Over the past decade, increases occurred in graduate applications in all broad fields.”

Breeann Gorham, assistant director of career services at GVSU, said she thinks the surge in popularity can be attributed to the state of the job market.

“The first reason more students are seeking graduate degrees is because they can’t find positions in the tough economy, and they think of it as a way to buy time,” she said. “They aren’t finding jobs, and they think of it as a backup plan. I hear most often from students, ‘I can’t find a job so I’m going to go to graduate school.’”

However, Gorham warned that graduate degrees might not always benefit a student looking for an entry-level position.

“I don’t want to minimize the importance of a graduate degree, but in an employer’s eyes, experience is more of a priority,” she said. “It makes them more eligible for a promotion. Experience makes them employable. A graduate degree makes them more eligible to be promoted and for career growth, but not for that initial position.”

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