Recession causes students to go back to school

Graduate enrollment is up 5.5 percent from the 2008/09 year, reported the University of Manitoba’s Office of Institutional Analysis in a press release, but it seems that graduate enrollment is up in institutions across the country.

Jay Doering, the dean of Graduate Studies at the U of M explained that during times of economic challenge it’s not “atypical” for students to go back to school to try and assure security within the job market and this trend can be seen at more universities than the U of M.

The dean of Graduate Studies at McMaster, Allison Sekuler, explained to the Manitoban that they have also seen an increase in the amount of people who have been attending graduate studies. She said that McMaster has seen an increase of 10 per cent throughout the faculty of Graduate Studies.

“We saw increases in various programs within every one of our faculties [ . . . ] as well as within some interdisciplinary programs.”

She went on to explain that, “McMaster is fortunate that the Ontario government ranked us among the top in the province for graduate growth over the next few years, so we have room right now to accommodate the increase.”

David Andolfatto, a specialist in economics and the business cycle at Simon Fraser University, told the Manitoban that this trend is something that usually occurs when the market is experiencing a difficult change.

“College [and] university enrollment rates have always been highly countercyclical,” said Andolfatto.

He continued, “During bad times, wages and job opportunities are low. So the opportunity cost of retraining is low. The reverse happens during a boom period. Why go to school when you could be making big money at work?”

Another university that saw an increase is Dalhousie where the overall growth in grad studies is strong.

According to Carolyn Watters, dean of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie, “We are experiencing a slight increase in graduate numbers this fall overall. Growth in the professional programs, overall is strong, but then so is growth in the research programs.”

She also said that the school was seeing an increase in interdisciplinary programs, especially PhD programs. She continued to say that the school expects more people returning to study.

“I suspect that we will be seeing more diploma and re-entry [or] upgrading-types of graduate training for people in the workforce.”

“Overall, we are not noticing that people who have lost jobs are flooding back to university, nor that new graduates are shocked at the job prospects and so are staying on rather than looking,” said Watters.

Janice Compton, an assistant professor in the department of Economics at the
U of M who specializes in labor studies called this trend “basic first year economics.”

“If you graduate in the middle of a recession, your opportunities out in the work place are very limited, that makes graduate school a relatively more attractive position than it would be if you graduated in a boom time,” said Compton.

She continued, to say that students are looking to better themselves and be more versatile in the job market.

“For a lot of positions now you need a good Masters degree to get that entry level position [ . . . ] It makes [students] a little more valuable in the long run and the opportunities are not out there, so what are you going to do rather than go to grad school?”

She also indicated that a number of other levels of education, whether it’s undergraduate or graduate studies, will also see the same fluctuations.