Grad schools see increased interest

Amy Hackbarth

More University students are trading their job applications for graduate school applications as the effects of the flagging economy hit the marketplace.

Applications to many University professional schools, such as Carlson School of Management and the Law School, have increased this year, leading some people to believe the depressed economy has changed some career plans.

“It’s more difficult for undergraduates who graduate to get jobs,” said Collins Byrd, director of admissions for the University Law School.

Applications at the school have increased 14 percent this year, compared to an 8 percent jump last year.

The Carlson School has also seen a 25 percent increase in applications this year, which acting director and Assistant Dean Sandra Kelzenberg attributes to the economy.

“Opportunity costs are lower when the economy is tighter,” she said.

Katie Shaw, marketing director of the Kaplan Educational Center in St. Paul, said some of the law and business schools’ popularity comes from non-students.

“Typically, the people who have been working go back to law school or business school,” she said.

Paul Johnson, who graduated from the University last May with a math degree, plans on leaving his job with a major corporation to return to school.

He will apply for the Carlson School and plans to start his own civil engineering firm.

Byrd said he expects others like Johnson to apply for professional schools. He said difficulties in the technology sector have left many people looking for a place to enhance their skills.

“People who were laid off after the dot-coms crashed are also looking at graduate programs now,” he said.

The infusion of applications from both students and professionals has boosted competition in the selection process, officials said.

Neither the business school nor the Law School will raise entering class sizes, despite increased application numbers.

Even the University Medical School, whose application numbers – similar to the national average – have remained steady, has seen an increase in school applicants’ qualifications.

To gain a competitive edge, students have been applying earlier and to more schools than in past years. Byrd said students used to typically apply to fewer than five schools, but now they’re applying to more.

“They’re applying to a variety of schools to cover all their bases,” he said.

Still, Byrd said, the pull of a comparatively inexpensive public graduate program is strong for many students during a slowing economy.

“You’re seeing people coming here not only because it’s cheaper but also for those security reasons,” he said. “They want to stay closer to home.”

An inexpensive school that is close to home is attractive to Jessica Ovel, a senior economics major, who is considering going to law school after graduation.

“Where else can you get a law degree for $9,500 a year?” she said. “It’s the best buy around.”

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]