Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Grad Enrollment Down Nationwide and at SU

    As students graduate from their respective institutions of higher education, they can choose a number of paths to go down. Take a year off and explore the corners of the earth, enter the battlefield that is the workforce or pursue an advanced degree.

    Although job competition is becoming fiercer and having a graduate school education can add a positive angle to one’s resume, the number of people enrolled in graduate school programs nationwide has declined over the last few years.

    “Nationally the pool is down 22 percent, but you’re really seeing close to 40 percent,” said Cheryl Cochran, Dean of Admissions for Seattle University’s School of Law.

    According to Director of Graduate Admissions Janet Shandley, however, this decline is not spread equally throughout the departments at Seattle University, however.

    The Albers School of Business and Economics in particular has experienced a decline in enrollment, according to Shandley.

    “There have been pockets of it within the College of Education [too]. Both of those are national phenomenons that we are also seeing here. It’s definitely not unique to Seattle U,” said Shandley.

    The rising cost of attendance coupled with the declining availability of financial aid deters students interested in pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree. Educational benefits from employers are dwindling as well. According to a New York Times article, public universities are struggling to provide their students with financial aid due to state budget cuts.

    “People have been looking at the cost; that has been a very large factor,” Cochran said. “The economy, the cost and the support from employers in undergraduate and graduate school enrollment. People are really looking for a return on their investment.”

    Given the consistent trend of low enrollment that has affected graduate schools for a number of years now, Shandley and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Education Bill Ehmann are brainstorming numerous ways to combat this issue.

    “We’ve responded by introducing some new options within our MBA program. Unlike other schools, we allow people to take a dual degree program,” said Ehmann. “And then education tends to be cyclical. Some years are really high, some are kind of low. It has a long-term trend up and down. So, we have confidence that it’s going to come back.”

    Shandley also mentioned that online learning, a boon to some programs nationwide is an option most Seattle U graduate programs have not explored yet.

    “We have not ventured into the online options very heavily. There’s an occasional online course, but not full degrees. I do think that has impacted the flexibility that adult learners are looking for,” Shandley said.

    Another option that allows for more flexibility for aspiring graduate students includes the newly approved Bridge MBA, which will accept students in the coming fall quarter.

    “It will allow people who do not have work experience and who do not have an undergraduate degree in business to pursue an MBA option full-time. It’s a new opportunity to address the needs of people who would like to continue their education,” Ehmann said. “They’re building in some of the requirements to make up for that lack of work experience.”

    Finally, Ehmann spoke of a plan modeled of a strategy utilized for Seattle U’s undergraduates one year ago.

    “We’re working on a Graduate Strategic Enrollment Plan. It’s a committee formed across the college of senior administrators, the deans and any school that has a graduate program. We do an inventory of what we’re offering. We do an environmental scan for where there would be opportunities for a new or revised program, and then we also talk about ways we could do our operations better.

    “Part of my job, which is a new role at the college, is to raise this profile of graduate education,” Ehmann said. “That includes working closely with the graduate student leadership to find out how else we can enhance grad student life. We’re just starting that process but I also think that’s going to be another selling point for us going forward.”

    Sherilynn may be reached at [email protected]

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