Graduate Student Enrollment Fell for First Time in 7 Years

October 25, 2011

According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of new students enrolled in the nation’s graduate schools in the fall of 2010 fell for the first time in seven years, even though applications for graduate programs that began that year had increased.

Between the fall of 2009 and the fall of 2010, enrollment of new students fell by 1.1 percent, according to the report, “Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2000 to 2010,” despite an increase in applications, which were up by 8.4 percent during that same time period. In comparison, the enrollment of new graduate students in the fall of 2009, had increased by 5.5 percent from the year before.

The report does not explain why the drop in enrollment occurred at a time when graduate programs would normally be filled to capacity. Historically, an economic downturn increases the number of first-time graduate students as they seek advanced degrees to upgrade their skills and increase their chances for employment. But Debra W. Stewart, president of the council, said anecdotal evidence, from graduate students and the graduate schools that are members of the council, point to the protracted recession as the likely reason.

Some other highlights include:

  • About half of the new graduate students in 2010 were enrolled in one of three broad fields: education, business, or health sciences.
  • International students’ first-time enrollment rose 4.7 percent from the year before.
  • The number of domestic students entering graduate school for the first time fell by 1.2 percent.
  • Graduate enrollment was dominated by women in 2010 (60%) and for the second year in a row, women earned the majority of doctoral degrees.

For more information on this study, read The Chronicle of Higher Education article in its entirety.