Job opportunities, economy affect graduate enrollment

Megan Wilkinson

As graduate enrollment falls nationally, the numbers at Kent State increased by 3 percent this year, said Mary Stephens, dean of graduate studies.

A total of 5,664 students enrolled in graduate studies this academic year, compared to last year’s total of 5,494 graduate students, said J.P. Cooney, director of graduate admissions.

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“A lot of these statistics go back to economic circumstances,” Stephens said. “One reason there may be a decline in enrollment is because the amount of financial aid has declined for graduate students.”

According to an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education, applications to graduate schools increased by 8.4 percent from last year. Yet the numbers of graduate enrollment fell by 1.1 percent nationally between Fall 2009 and Fall 2010.

“We’re really trying to make a concerted effort to get Kent State’s name out there when it comes to graduate education,” Cooney said.

Jamie Bloss, graduate student in library of information sciences, said students might not be attending graduate school as frequently because of job opportunities. She said some students are advised to go into the workforce and then return later on for graduate studies.

“Many employers do not want to have to pay someone a higher salary once the applicant has a master’s degree,” Bloss said. “Another issue may be the insane amount of loans everyone acquires as an undergraduate student.”

Cooney said students at Kent State still commonly receive assistantship jobs, which may help keep up enrollment numbers. Assistantships allow graduate students to earn money toward their tuition by working 10-20 hours a week, depending on the size of their stipend.

Jessica Birchell, graduate student in higher education, administration and student personnel, said most students who receive their bachelor’s degrees may not pursue higher education because they do not realize that universities still offer financial aid to students at the graduate level.

“I wanted to be able to work on my career (with education) as fast as I can,” Birshell said. “By going to Kent State’s graduate school, I can get practical experience closer to home.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at

[email protected].