Humanities Graduate School Enrollment Drops Again
|September 29, 2012||Posted by Editor under Arts & Humanities, Graduate School|
Anybody catch this article yesterday in The New York Times? New Enrollment Drops Again in Graduate Programs. Anyone surprised? Higher education hasn’t exactly been getting good publicity lately. Every time I turn around these days, there’s a new headline warning us about the risk of pursuing a graduate degree, especially a degree obtained in humanities graduate school.
In fact, I’ve written a few of them myself. Like Why Did I Get a Master’s Degree in English and Five Bad Reasons to Earn a Master’s Degree in English. It’s true. Getting a master’s degree or a PhD is not necessarily a good idea anymore. Especially if you’re one of us lucky humanities types for whom the job prospects are abysmal.
I wrote those posts–and I will continue to write similar posts–because I care about the folks who are in the place I was in a few years ago–bachelor’s degree and an uninspired job, thinking that a master’s is the answer to all their problems. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. That’s up to each of us to decide after reading the stories and conducting the research. But, according to this NYT article, the warnings are starting to sink in. Arts & Humanities graduate school enrollment dropped 5.4 percent this year, which was second only to Education programs at -8.8 percent.
One bright spot in the article points to the fact that this decline in enrollment has also lead to a decline in acceptance percentage. “In 2007, the acceptance rate across all master’s and doctoral programs was 44.6 percent, whereas in 2011 it was 40.8 percent.” This means that graduate committees and admissions offices are reducing the number of students admitted to their graduate programs.
In my opinion, this is one of those necessary evils. While I hate to see fewer students accepted, I think it’s unavoidable if we are ever going to get back to a point where earning a graduate degree is a worthwhile investment. Colleges are going to have to stop accepting every warm body that applies for a master’s degree, which would mean they would have to stop running their departments with cheap graduate labor.
This ponzi scheme of academic labor, whereby new cheap laborers are cranked out much faster than the market could ever support them has to stop, and the first and most obvious step towards solving the problem is to stop accepting so many graduate students. So, the decline in acceptance rate is a good sign, in my opinion. If we want to restore the sustainability of graduate education, we need to create a new model that doesn’t crank out MA’s and PhD’s just because we can. All that does is create a hollow shell with no substance, as we’re realizing now that the job market is flooded with graduate degrees and those additional years of education are becoming less valuable.
I see this as the beginning of a new era. We had our time for awhile there when everyone and their brother was scooping up a master’s degree, but that time is slowly beginning to end. The job market is exposing the unsustainability of that model and the public is now reacting to that truth. I predict that we’ll continue to see humanities graduate school enrollment drop as higher education catches on to the reality of the situation, thanks to higher ed media and bloggers. It’s kind of sad I guess, but it’s inevitable.