National drop in Domestic Graduate Students in line with Kent State’s enrollment

Bruce Walton

Subsequent to a national trend, Kent State’s domestic graduate student enrollment has decreased two percent from last fall.

According to a report by the Council of Graduate Schools, the number of domestic graduate students enrolled in American universities dropped by two percent between fall of 2011 and 2012.

On the Kent State campus, from fall of 2011 to fall of 2012, there was an increase of enrollment from 5,595 graduate students to 6,166 according to RPIE numbers, a sizable increase of more than 10 percent. However, in the latest enrollment data, enrollment dropped from 6,166 to 6,030, a little more than two percent. Although not a staggering drop nationally or locally, it is still a noticeable trend that may be growing in the near future.

The colleges that attract the most domestic graduate students are education, health and human services, followed by arts and sciences and communication and information.

Mary Ann Stephens, Dean of Graduate Studies, said there are several reasons this decrease may be occurring.

“[The drop in graduate enrollment] is actually a couple of things,” Stephens said. “One is that we actually did much better during the recession. When the economy was poorer, we had no jobs and so they came back to graduate school to retool. While they were unemployed, they took out loans and found ways to get back to position themselves better for when the economy returned.”

Stephens said because the economy has improved, it is not surprising enrollment rates have slightly dropped. In fact, enrollment rates are expected to be lowest in a middle-of-the-road economy. During economic boom times, people have more disposable income to spend on education.

Stephens said another reason enrollment might be decreasing because employers aren’t offering their employees incentive to further their educations, something that used to be common practice in certain fields. Even for the top graduate enrolled school, like EHHS, lost 142 students from the fall of 2012.

The state of Ohio used to offer teachers state funding for their higher education. But the state no longer offers this option and has gotten rid of its master’s degree requirement for teachers pursuing tenure or promotions.

Regardless of the cost, there are still more than 6,000 students enrolling in graduate programs. “I think being a graduate student will help me with my job, because being a library major, to get a good library job or good archivist job, I need to have a master’s. And on top of that, a lot of archivists need to be certified, which takes an additional class and an additional exam on top of having a master’s degree,” said Rebecca Dixon, a second-year graduate student and library and information science major,

Dixon said she doesn’t recommend pursuing a master’s degree if it isn’t required. Dixon also thinks that the drop is caused by the student’s personal finances as well the drop in available financial aid for graduate students.

Contact Bruce Walton at [email protected].