KSU attracting more masters students as job market dwindles

Jamie Shearer

Graduate enrollment at Kent State has been on the rise – including a nearly 4.5 percent increase since fall – with the economy and other reasons behind the spike.

Overall, graduate enrollment increased by about 6 percent from Spring 2008 to Spring 2009, according to data from Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness.

Graduate Dean Evelyn Goldsmith said in an e-mail that graduate school is one option for recent graduates who are having a hard time finding a job because it suspends loan repayments.

But deans at two colleges with graduate enrollment increases credit unique programs at Kent State for attracting new students.

Jeff Fruit, interim dean of the College of Communication and Information, said it’s no accident that the School of Library and Information Science is the college’s primary driver in graduate enrollment.

He attributes the school’s largest master’s program on campus to it being the only program of its kind in the state. The school has grown 15 percent, from 592 to 681 students, from Fall 2007 to Fall 2008, according to RPIE reports.

“They’ve got a unique niche in the marketplace, too,” he said. “There’s no one else, no other university in the state of Ohio that’s doing the kind of program they’re doing. So that market niche is an important one, too, that I think really helps them to keep a large enrollment.”

Daniel Mahony, the dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services, credits the college’s cohort programs, which are programs offered at other sites such as Aurora and Ashtabula, for keeping graduate enrollment steady.

“I don’t know if a lot of other programs are doing as many of those kind of off-campus cohort programs as we’ve been doing,” he said. “They tend to be very popular because it gets us to a new audience.”

The colleges are also looking into opportunities that could help boost their graduate enrollment.

Mahony expects the new Hospitality and Tourism Management program for graduate students, which is starting in the fall, to be popular.

“That’s another one where I think we’ll see some continued growth,” he said.

Fruit isn’t concerned so much with growth as he is with finding students who are right for the college.

“I think for us it’s not a matter of how big should we get; it’s more a matter of what are the kinds of students that are a good fit for the kind of education that we’re providing,” he said.

Both colleges are expecting to handle this growth under the new Responsibility Center Management budget model.

“The nice thing under RCM is if we generate more revenue by increasing enrollment in these programs, we’ll get that revenue back, which we could then put into hiring more faculty,” Mahony said.

Fruit agrees, saying that the RCM model is a way to scale things to demand.

Contact faculty affairs reporter Jamie Shearer at [email protected].