Anyone working in graduate recruitment was probably not surprised by the latest annual enrollment report from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). For the second consecutive year, CGS reported a decline in new graduate students in 2011 after almost a decade of steady growth. Even with applications up, many graduate programs are finding that prospective students are not enrolling as predictably as in the recent past.
But there are differences in the details—even good news for some programs. More importantly, we now know which recruitment strategies yield the best results for the time and money invested, according to research and a recent survey of graduate recruitment professionals.
First, here are the details of new graduate student enrollment. The field of Education has been hit the hardest in terms of new graduate student recruitment. In our consultations with graduate programs across the country, we at Noel-Levitz are seeing big dips in new student interest in degrees leading to teacher certification, and the CGS reports bear this out with news that new student enrollment in Education programs declined by 8.8 percent in 2011 after an 8.1 percent decline the year before.
Education programs have been a mainstay of graduate enrollment for decades. Indeed, even with these declines, Education enrollment still represents about one-fifth of all graduate enrollment, according to the CGS report. So declines in this area hit institutions hard. Arts and Humanities programs have also seen declines, and master’s programs in Business have been flat or down for the past two years, according to the CGS reports.
There is good news, too. According to CGS, there has been growth in programs in Health Sciences and Computer Science. New international student enrollments also continued to be strong with a 7.8 percent increase in 2011.
Full-time graduate enrollment dipped in 2011, but it declined only 1 percent compared to a 2.9 percent decline in part-time enrollment. This was the second straight year for a decline in part-time enrollment, according to data in the CGS reports. Part-time enrollment declines may be related to the decline in Education programs.
Five recommendations for action
In light of the changing landscape, here are five actions you can take to help strengthen your graduate recruitment program based on our consulting experience and research at Noel-Levitz:
Are you developing more initiatives to strengthen graduate recruitment on your campus? Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to share your experiences, or leave a comment below.
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