GRE numbers drop for first time in four years

For the first time in four years, the number of students taking the Graduate Record Examination has dropped. The Educational Testing Service , which administers the exam, expected 675,000 students to take the exam in 2008, but at the end of the year 621,000 students had taken the exam, a nearly 2 percent decrease from 2007. In 2007 a record 633,000 students took the exam, up 56,000 from 2006 . Nationally, the drop in GRE numbers is a surprise since history indicates graduate school enrollment increases during economic turmoil. This was the first time the GRE has seen a decrease during a recession, but September registration numbers did reflect the economic trend, ETS Spokesman Mark McNutt said . âÄúWhen you think about the time at which the economy became a crisis in the psyche of American people, were really looking right around September,âÄù he said. âÄúWe had a record registration number for September.âÄù McNutt said he believes the decrease could be linked to studentsâÄô concerns over financial aid. âÄúItâÄôs possible that early in the year concern or perceptions of limited access to student loans may have caused some hesitation with some folks,âÄù McNutt said. But tuition aside, students often benefit financially from attending graduate school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics , unemployment rates plummet as education goes up. The decrease has the University of MinnesotaâÄôs graduate school worried that application numbers will also be low for fall 2009 admission, Admission Director Dean Tsantir said. âÄúIf the GRE numbers are down, it could be an indicator that application numbers could be down as well,âÄù he said. âÄúThatâÄôs our primary concern right now.âÄù The graduate school will not have a good indicator of application numbers until March or April. However, concern over the GREâÄôs influence on application numbers could be overblown since scores can be used for up to five years, McNutt said, and students donâÄôt always apply for graduate school right after taking the exam. ETS encourages students interested in graduate school at some point to take the exam during their junior or senior year in college. McNutt said statistics show students perform better when they take it in those years. Testing services encourage students to consider graduate school, but Paul Timmins, the director of the University Of MinnesotaâÄôs College Of Liberal ArtsâÄô Career and Community Learning Center, said graduate school is not for everyone. Although he said there has been a slight increase in students coming through the CCLC who are interested in graduate school, whether they should attend depends on the studentsâÄô interests and career goals, Timmins said. âÄúThere is no such thing as a one size fits all approach,âÄù he said.