Ph.D. Admissions Shrinking
If ever there was a year that colleges were anxious about enrolling new and continuing students, this is it. Whether dependent on tuition revenue or state appropriations formulas, colleges are doing everything they can think of in this economically challenging year to attract students -- and the dollars that follow them.
But there is a notable exception: Several colleges have recently announced that, regardless of application quality, they plan to admit fewer Ph.D. students for this coming fall than were admitted a year ago. The economics of doctoral education are different enough from those of other programs that some universities' doctoral classes will be taking a significant hit, with potential ramifications down the road for the academic job market, the availability of teaching assistants, and the education of new professors.
Emory University plans a 40% cut in the number of new Ph.D. students it will enroll this fall. Columbia University is planning a 10% cut. Brown University has called off a planned increase in Ph.D. enrollments. The University of South Carolina is considering a plan to have some departments that have admitted doctoral students every year shift to an every-other-year system. These cuts are exclusively for Ph.D. programs. Terminal master's programs and professional school programs are generally being encouraged to fill their classes; those programs are of course ones in which many universities assume students will pay most or all costs themselves, using loans as needed.
The economic difference between Ph.D. and non-Ph.D. students is that the former tend to be supported with tuition waivers and stipends, while many of the latter pay their own way or bring in federal or other aid, such that colleges (beyond the altruistic reasons for educating students) are bringing in money, too. Doctoral students at many universities receive full support from their universities, creating a very different dynamic -- especially coupled with the need to make large cuts in budgets.
Inside Higher Ed