Charting a roadmap towards a greater number of enrollments in graduate studies

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The recent decline in international student applications and graduate school enrollment is nothing short of shocking.

When top school leaders from across the country gathered in Nashville for the Council of Graduate Schools’ annual meeting on December 4-7, many asked the same question: How will it be possible to achieve the goal, shared by nearly half of graduates recently surveyed educational management professionals, to increase enrollment by at least 10%?

Although the CGS reports that overall enrollment rates for the first time in U.S. graduate schools are increasing at modest rates – by 2% and 2.9% for masters and doctoral programs, respectively, in 2018 – the recent decline in international student applications and enrollments is nothing short of shocking. If the trend continues, it could have serious consequences not only for graduate schools, but for our employers, the skilled workforce and the economy as a whole.

Application rates for international graduates and first-time enrollment have declined over the past two years, according to CGS. In the fall of 2018, applications from prospective graduate students residing outside the United States declined by 4%, and the number of international graduate students enrolled in US programs declined by 1%. Although first-time international doctoral enrollment increased by 3%, master’s and certificate programs saw a 6% drop in applications and a 2% drop in first-time enrollment.

A recently released report by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, meanwhile, raised concerns among the education graduate community with its revelation that international applications to U.S. business schools have declined 13.7% this year.

Among graduate admissions officers, the next logical question is how can we also increase domestic enrollment to compensate for declining international enrollment? The dilemma faces academic institutions from private to public, small to large, local to national. This reality was strongly reinforced at a roundtable on the CGS conference where about three-quarters of the session participants quickly raised their hands when asked if they identified with these challenges.

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At the same time, the CGS conference sought to move the conversation forward by brainstorming common solutions for graduate studies. This speech focused on the following themes:

Centralize processes

A number of Deans in attendance expressed a desire to achieve a more comprehensive scope of admissions, as each academic program at their institutions has separate processes for collecting information, assessing applicants, and other workflows. . The confusion associated with the historically decentralized nature of graduate admissions is magnified in this era of declining applications, crippling colleges and universities that aspire to implement meaningful institution-wide change. This landscape encourages those responsible for the management of higher education to redouble their efforts to centralize institutional processes.

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Represent the under-represented

Attracting students from under-represented backgrounds is more crucial than ever as applications from traditional sources decline. At the conference, CGS presented an Innovation Award to Wayne State University for “Success of Under-represented Students in Graduate Studies,” a program that aims to create a stable pool of under-represented students. prepared for master’s programs by connecting them with intensive and inclusive mentoring, leadership training and scholarship funding. Notably, the category of under-represented students includes not only ethnic and racial minorities, but also members of the military service or working adults seeking to enroll in higher education. Institutions can better serve these students by increasing their offerings of online and part-time programs.

Meeting the demand for labor

Members of the graduate education management community increasingly recognize that they must act on the need to align graduate schools with the priorities of the students and the workforce they serve. According to the CGS, jobs requiring master’s and doctoral degrees on entry are expected to increase by 13.7% and 9% between 2018 and 2028, respectively. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has found that healthcare, community service, and STEM job openings represent the fastest growing occupational groups in the United States. If today’s graduate schools fail to respond to these crucial workforce trends, they risk falling behind their peers or even disappearing.

Adopt proven tools

Even during chaotic times on campus, graduate education managers can be reassured by the existence of technologies with the proven ability to increase enrollment. For more than two decades, we have International Liaison have provided tools that make it easier for graduate schools to broaden their reach to well-qualified prospects, as well as help potential students complete their applications and ultimately enroll. Nashville-based Tennessee State University reports that it saw a 7.5% year-over-year increase in graduate student enrollment after its graduate programs joined our centralized application service platforms, and expanded reach without additional marketing expenses.

Using these guiding principles as a road map, U.S. graduate schools can make significant strides in recruiting dynamic, dynamic and diverse students who contribute to success not only on this country’s campuses, but in its workforce. work and society.

Judy Chappelear is Director of Association Partnerships at Liaison International.


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