GV graduate enrollment drops

Courtesy Photo / Jeffery Potteiger
Dean of Graduate Students Jeffery Potteiger

Courtesy Photo / Jeffery Potteiger Dean of Graduate Students Jeffery Potteiger

Dan Spadafora

Fitting with a national trend that shows a steady decline in graduate school enrollment, the Grand Valley State University School of Graduate Studies enrollment numbers dropped 104 students, or 3.2 percent, from last year.

The total number of graduate students enrolled in degree-seeking programs last year was 3,204, a number that has dropped this year to 3,100 total graduate degree-seeking students.

Jeffrey Potteiger, dean of graduate studies at GVSU, said this drop in total enrollment can be explained by several factors, such as a decline in employer support for part-time students seeking a degree while still working. He added that because of the stressed economy, employers are less likely to contribute assistance to their employee’s education.

“For those students who are paying their own tuition, the depressed economy forces them to be very careful about how they spend limited resources,” Potteiger said. “Another factor could be competition for students. New graduate programs are being developed across the country in an effort to compete for the available pool of potential applicants.”

Although the total number of graduate students has dropped from last year to this year, Potteiger said it is important to look at the larger trends and not compare numbers from year to year, saying this could impact how one interprets the data.

From 2008 through 2010, the total number of graduate students climbed from 3,049 in 2008 to 3,204 in 2010, a 5 percent increase, before dropping to this year’s enrollment of 3,100. Even more fluctuation occurred in years past, with the numbers rising and dropping from 2005 through 2007.

Besides the economy causing a rise or decline, Potteiger said the number of universities offering graduate programs in an area can also be a factor.

“In Grand Rapids, there are 15 colleges or universities offering graduate programs,” Potteiger said. “This increased market availability means a potential reduction in enrollment for programs as there is more competition.”

According to a recent report from the Council of Graduate Schools, national graduate school enrollment has decreased 1.1 percent.

“The office of Graduate Studies is about to conduct a survey to identify the primary reasons why students who were accepted into a graduate program at GVSU did not enroll,” Potteiger said. “We hope to use this information to help make changes to our graduate education programs that will result in a greater enrollment.”