Seniors turn to grad school to escape poor economy

In a comparison of the College’s graduating Classes of 2007 and 2008, there is a 5 percent increase in the number of seniors who enrolled in graduate courses after completing their undergraduate education.

Recent data for the Class of ’08, compiled by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), a nationwide database of admissions data, shows 29 percent (417 out of 1,418) pursued further study. This is an increase from 24 percent (327 out of 1,349) from the NSC data of the Class of ’07.

Ceil O’Callaghan, Interim Associate Dean of Students and Director of Career Services, labeled the 5 percent increase as “significant.”

A 5 percent rise also occurred between the Classes of 2006 and 2007, according to O’Callaghan, totaling 10 percent over the last three years. She expects this upward trend to continue for the Class of 2009, “due to the economic conditions.”

“If (students are) concerned about the job market and thinking of grad school as a way of staving that off, at least meet with a career counselor,” O’Callaghan said. “Don’t just go to grad school to stave off the job market.” She believes this may leave students overqualified for some things and underqualified for others.

O’Callaghan does believe graduate school should be an option if students know what they want to do or if they need a graduate education for a future line of work.

The NSC data does not reflect the number of students who enrolled in graduate programs but rather the number of graduating seniors and the schools in which they took courses after receiving their bachelor’s degree from the College. This brief snapshot is provided by the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment at the College. A College-wide report, which does include students who attended graduate programs, is conducted after graduation over the summer by Career Services.

The 2008 NSC data illustrates students pursued further study at 134 different colleges and universities. Five Ivy League colleges made the list, along with a number of community colleges, which do not offer graduate programs but two-year certificate programs. Four community colleges were among the top 15 schools on the list. O’Callaghan believes this high number might be an indication of students “settling” and prolonging their jump into the job market.

The top five schools and the number of students who enrolled in classes are the College (115), Rutgers University-New Brunswick (20), Seton Hall Law (14), Rutgers University- Camden (12) and Montclair State University (11).

The number of students selecting the College for Graduate School has grown significantly from 47 to 115, a 200 percent increase from 2007 to 2008. O’Callaghan believes this bump is due in part to the way Career Services now records data. Two education programs, Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Special Education, are now five-year programs instead of two-year. Once students reach their fifth year, they are recorded as attending graduate school.

Along with the data, O’Callaghan said she is witnessing an increased “concern” and “fear” in the students who come to Career Services for help. Matt Pihokker, senior English literature and classical studies major, is experiencing this.

“I’m trying to stay in school just because the job market is so terrible,” Pihokker said. “In talking to a bunch of family and people currently in grad school it was strongly suggested to stay in school.” Pihokker has applied to three post-baccalaureate programs.

However, not all students are letting the recession alter their plans. In the case of Sean Hiki, a member of the College class of ’08 and currently a graduate student at the College studying secondary education and English, he applied before dramatic signs of a worsening economy emerged.

“I had been planning for a few years to go right into grad school for education after I graduated, and I bullishly stuck to my plans,” Hiki said. “Also, I had applied in March of last year, and as far as I knew at the time, there was no indication there was going to be a bad recession.”