First-time graduate enrollment drops at UC Berkeley

In light of recent economic hardships throughout the country, universities nationwide experienced an overall drop in first-time graduate student enrollment rates in fall 2010 for the first time since fall 2003, and UC Berkeley was no exception.

According to campus admissions data, UC Berkeley saw a drop in the incoming graduate student class from 2,893 graduate students in fall 2009 to 2,778 in fall 2010 — a decrease of 4.1 percent — which reflects the results of a study from the Council of Graduate Schools, a national organization which aims to advance graduate school education.

The council reported a 1.1 percent  drop nationally in the enrollment of new graduate students from fall 2009 to fall 2010, in contrast with a 5.5 percent growth rate from fall 2008 to fall 2009. Many universities across the country have been cutting back on their graduate programs in part due to economic constraints that universities are currently facing.

Nationally, the report saw an 8.4 percent increase in graduate student applications from fall 2009 to fall 2010, which campus admissions data showed to a lesser extent. UC Berkeley received approximately 4 percent more applications than in the previous year.

Admissions advisers from various UC Berkeley graduate programs said that despite the financial constraints the University of California faces, reasons for the decline in first-time graduate enrollment cannot necessarily be attributed to financial difficulties.

Rochele Fraga, admissions coordinator for the campus Graduate School of Education, said there has been a decline in the graduate student allocation to the department for the last five years. Allocation for the department is based on a formula that takes into consideration factors such as the graduation rate and the campus’s budgetary situation.

But Fraga said that although the education department has experienced an enrollment decrease from fall 2009 to fall 2010, its effects have been small. Despite the decrease in enrollment from 2009, Fraga said the department saw an overall increase in the number of students enrolling per acceptance.

Harrison Cheng, an admissions adviser at the campus Haas School of Business, said that fluctuations in graduate enrollment, particularly in his department, are not unusual. In fact, Cheng said that the number of enrollments per acceptance has been up.

“We typically aim for a class size of 240, plus or minus a little bit, so we usually offer around 400 some admissions a year,” Cheng said. “But because of the fairly small number, it does fluctuate year to year.”

Nevertheless, despite the slight dip in first time graduate student enrollment, the council also reported a 1.1 percent increase in total graduate student enrollment. UC Berkeley maintained consistent numbers for total graduate student enrollment.

Nationally, the report shows every ethnic minority decreasing in first-time graduate enrollment except for Latinos, whose first-time enrollment numbers went up 4.9 percent.

UC Berkeley, however, did see a very modest increase in the number of underrepresented minorities among the first-time graduate student enrollments, from 11 percent in fall 2009 to 12 percent in fall 2010.

“The decline in first time enrollment, particularly across most ethnic groups, is a concern given changing demographics and the need for more students from all groups to pursue graduate degrees so that America will have the talent to remain competitive,” said Debra Stewart, president of the council, in a press release.