Grad enrollment drops after three-year increase

Graduate enrollment at AU has dropped, according to a Jan. 23 memorandum from President Neil Kerwin.

There are 188 fewer graduate students in 2012 than in 2011, a calculated 5.5 percent drop, according to Director of Institutional Research and Assessment Karen Froslid-Jones.

Froslid-Jones said in an email that AU enrolled

• 3,126 graduate students for spring 2009,

• 3,421 in spring 2011

• And 3,233 for spring 2012.

She did not seem alarmed by the decrease in graduate enrollment.

“I wouldn’t call 188 students significant, especially since the schools and colleges budgeted and planned for fewer students,” she said. “You’ll notice if you look at the four-year trend that there are variations in enrollment and that this year’s enrollment is pretty close to where we were two years ago.”

Jonathan Tubman, the vice president for graduate studies and research, said the University revamped the graduate program section of the AU website to attract more applicants. The new pages feature faculty and student testimonials portraying their experiences and the merits of AU’s programs.

Tubman said he hopes this effort will draw new applicants, though he said the drop may be more closely linked to flaws in the graduate programs’ structure.

“Other schools are ahead of AU at offering student-friendly courses,” Tubman said.

Some prospective students are deterred from AU’s graduate programs because of the lack of flexible evening and online courses, Tubman said.

“I think what we’re also seeing in urban areas, is that many people work full time and go to graduate school, and if you make it easy for people to go to school and work part time then they can work full time and go to school,” he said.

Kerwin’s Jan. 23 memo said part-time enrollment is “substantially above” target numbers, which may be attributed to the fact that more students are pursuing graduate degrees while working day jobs.

Other D.C. graduate schools, such as George Mason University and the University of Maryland, have transitioned to accommodate students by offering more classes online and after 5 p.m., Tubman said.

“AU is moving there,” he said.

School of Public Affairs graduate student Catherine Horn said she had a difficult time getting into courses that fit into her work schedule, such as “Public Policy Practicum,” a graduation requirement for all public policy master’s students.

One of the three sessions meets in the middle of the workday, while another convenes late into the evening. Horn said the most popular session, Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., filled up almost instantly because evening time attracted many students.

“AU could be more accommodating in terms of class times and location,” she said.

Horn said AU’s location is also constricting for students that spend part of their week working downtown. She said universities like Johns Hopkins University and Maryland have strategically situated their graduate-level programs in rented-out city center facilities to accommodate their active students.

School of International Service graduate student Edward Whitney said he believes accommodating working students too much will lead to academic degradation, which he calls the “Community College Effect.”

“How accommodating can you expect people to be without running the risk of sacrificing the academic quality of the class atmosphere?” he said.

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