University Sees a Surge in Graduate Enrollment

University Sees a Surge in Graduate Enrollment

Reputation, financial aid cited for rise in quantity and quality

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

Enrollment is booming in Boston College's graduate and professional schools and administrators say BC's growing academic reputation, increased financial support and establishment of several new master's degree programs are responsible for the increase in the quantity - and quality - of postgraduate students.

Enrollment figures this fall in the Lynch Graduate School of Education (1,061) and the Carroll Graduate School of Management (978) set new records, while the Graduate School of Social Work and the Connell School of Nursing postgraduate programs saw significant enrollment increases over last year.

The BC Law School considered a record 7,818 applications for the 281 places in its current first-year class, while the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences enjoyed a similar upturn with a 20 percent overall increase in applications, including a 14 percent hike in non-doctoral programs.

"We have noticed a significant improvement in the quality of applicants," said GSAS Assistant Dean for Admission and Financial Aid Robert Howe. "To a man, every department felt that it had a spectacular year, and is very pleased with the incoming class."

Howe says several factors have contributed to the improved applicant pool. "BC is much higher profile school than it was even just a few years ago. More people know us. When I go out to visit schools, I am always pleased with the reputation that BC has with students.

"The University has also made a strategic investment in student support," Howe said. "All of our doctoral students are funded, and many of our master's degree students as well. This is necessary in order to be competitive with graduate schools. Most graduate schools - if not all - fund their students, and for years we were not very competitive with our overlap schools. We feel pretty good at this point that our stipends are competitive, and that's to the credit of the University."

GSSW Admission Director William Howard echoes Howe's comments in discussing his school's 30 percent rise, to 130, in first-year students this fall. "It is partially a result of Boston College's continuing upward growth in reputation and visibility," he said.

An increase in GSSW's financial aid resources has helped to fuel the Boston College growth, said Howard, who adds that not all graduate social work programs have enjoyed enrollment expansions in recent years.

"Also, when it's a slow economy, like we have been experiencing, it is a traditional time for people to upgrade their skills," he said, citing increased student interest in public service careers since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Even though it is a conservative budget climate [for social services], the need is still very high," Howard said.

CSOM Director of Graduate Enrollment and Admissions Shelley Conley points to the growth of the school's new graduate program in accounting as a key factor in the record enrollment. Conley said 120 students are matriculating in the MSA curriculum this year, up from 45 a year ago.

"We have also been able to maintain our enrollments in the graduate finance and MBA programs," she said. "We were able to attract a robust application pool, while many MBA programs saw a decline in numbers."

Arline Riordan, LSOE's Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions, sees faculty reputation and alumni satisfaction with Boston College graduate education as having major impacts on the school's current popularity. "When you look at our success, so much of it has to do with faculty research and their leadership work within their fields. The faculty's accessibility and their 'humanity' toward their students has become a hallmark of the school and that gets known," she said.

"When I do ask people what caused them to apply to the Lynch School, it is almost always because someone else they know has had a good experience here. Certainly, we do well in the rankings - we were 23rd in US News and World Report's ranking last year - but we hope that our mission and what goes on here is even more important in drawing people here," Riordan said.

Growing interest in a master's degree program for college graduates seeking to enter the nursing profession, along with a new nurse anesthetist's curriculum, have helped boost graduate nursing enrollment to 189, the highest in recent years, said CSON Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Laurel Eisenhauer.

The number of entering master's degree students jumped from 57 to 89 in the past year, Eisenhauer said, with most of the increase reflected in the nursing entry program for degree holders in other disciplines. Applications have tripled this year for the anesthetist's program that starts in January, she said.

Law School admissions were the most competitive ever, according to Dean John H. Garvey. "Our program continues to be recognized as one of the best in the country," Garvey said. "The number of applications we receive and the quality of our entering class are a testament to the hard work and talent of our faculty and staff, and to our philosophy of teaching."

Students in the current first-year Law School class are graduates of 116 colleges; 29 already hold master's degrees and three have received doctorates. Fifty of the students are Phi Beta Kappa graduates of their undergraduate schools.

-Law School Communications Director Nathaniel Kenyon contributed to this story.


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