Consequences of tuition hikes

Exorbitant student debt is keeping graduates out of grad school.

Graduate school enrollment is on the decline at the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio reported last week. Over the past five years, the University’s graduate enrollment has dropped by 9 percent, while the state has seen a more than 13 percent decline system-wide.

Some colleges on the Twin Cities campus have been hurting more than others. Graduate school enrollment has dipped 16 percent at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 22 percent at the College of Biological Sciences and as much as 23 percent at the Carlson School of Management.

The drop in graduate enrollment is part of a nationwide trend. The U.S. has seen an 11 percent drop in the number of students pursuing graduate and professional programs, according to MPR’s report.

The drop is the result of a long trend of rising tuition costs as well as shrinking government funding for student positions. According to a recent survey, roughly one in five postgraduate applicants at the University of Minnesota declined an offer of admission for financial reasons.

Large debt accrued as an undergraduate can become a serious deterrent regarding the decision to go to grad school. Interest remains high — applications are up nationally — but graduates either can’t or aren’t willing to take on more student debt. This has serious consequences for universities and the U.S. as a whole. Administrators at the University of Minnesota may have to restructure graduate programs, and the nation’s talent pool will inevitably shrink if this trend continues.

The solution may be uncertain, but the cause is clear: Rising tuition prices are keeping graduates from reaching their full potential. Lawmakers at both the state and federal levels should understand that the urgency to decrease tuition costs at public universities has never been higher.