Students Forego Workplace, Choose Graduate Schools Instead

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Deterred from entering the workplace by the slow economy, prospective graduate students across the country are applying to professional schools in record numbers.

At UC schools, more people are applying to business, pharmacy, electrical engineering and computer science programs, administrators said yesterday.

UC Berkeley's prestigious Haas School of Business has observed an approximate 80 to 90 percent increase in competition for the school's 240 available spaces, said Richard Kurovsky, a spokesperson for the school.

Although there has been a long-term trend of slow, steady increases in applicants to Haas, this year marked a significant peak in interest for the MBA program compared to previous years, Kurovsky said.

"The incentives for going to school are becoming more attractive," he said. "A couple years ago, when we were in the dot-com bubble, many people were striking it rich or hoping to. And now that's disappeared. Now, people want to get back to the basics and go to school."

Numbers may continue to rise, as the admissions process continues until March 15.

Other departments reporting increases include UC Berkeley's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, which received more than 3,000 graduate applications, up by 900 from last year.

James Betbeze, a UC San Francisco admissions coordinator, said the School of Pharmacy also reported a 40 percent increase in applicants-for a profession that has been experiencing a shortage.

Kurovsky attributed the sudden change to a decrease in opportunity cost-the salary lost while attending school plus tuition costs. Because some people are out of a job or their salary has notably diminished, the loss of income caused by attending graduate school is less than it used to be, he said.

Nationally, other areas of study seeing increases in applicants include programs in law and nursing.

But despite heightened interest in these programs, medical schools are witnessing a decrease in applicants.

Edward Dagang, director of admissions and outreach at UC Davis' School of Medicine, said applications have been declining for the past several years.

But rather than place the blame solely on the economy, Dagang attributes the decrease to issues relating to managed care, which include loss of autonomy and a perceived decrease in potential income. The problems have left many physicians dissatisfied enough to leave the field altogether.

"(The decrease) was happening before the economy (worsened). I don't think it's a direct relationship," he said.

At UC San Francisco's School of Medicine, applications have decreased by 15 percent, according to admissions officer Kathy Ryan. Nationally, applications to medical schools were down by 9 percent.

Although the school has seen decreases in the past several years, Ryan attributed the significant decrease to a recent malfunction of the American Medical College Application Service. Starting last May, the service required students to apply online to medical school.

But due to a glitch in the system, thousands of applications were delayed.

"It's because the Web-based application was not working. We're pretty certain that's what it is," Ryan said.

Even though the number of medical school applicants continues to decline, Dagang said the quality of the applicants remains high.


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