“The Graduate”

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October 31, 2011

10:13 PM

It’s the one dreaded question every senior hates to hear: “What are you doing next year?” Some students will be hired for their dream careers, some will be forced to move back in with their parents, and some others will seek the sacred haven of graduate school. Graduate school may seem like the safest choice for many students given that many businesses are not hiring in the current economic climate. The downside of graduate school is that it often leaves students drowning in loans when they finally enter the real world to find a job.

According to The Council of Graduate Schools Annual Report, there has been a drop in graduate school enrollment this year — the first since 2003. Surprisingly, the College of William and Mary reported an increase in graduate school enrollment, even if only by a small margin — two students.
Recently, undergraduate degrees mean less in the job market. In both the public and private sector, many employers want to see more than a bachelor’s degree from their potential hires. With this in mind, it is quite
perplexing to learn that enrollment is down.

Graduate school seems like a safe bet during an economic crisis. Usually, more education means higher pay when you graduate. Depending on the program, some institutions of higher education pay students to get their graduate degrees. Although it should be noted that just because a school pays you $30,000 per year to get your Ph.D. in Medieval Poetry, it doesn’t mean you necessarily would be a valuable candidate when competing for jobs besides, say, a Medieval Poetry professorship. Prices for education are high regardless of the Ph.D. payday.

Those same graduate students studying a stanza from a John Donne poem for three solid years could be the students bringing grant and research money into the College. Graduate programs allow students to do intense research that contributes greatly to all fields of study. This trickles down to the undergraduate program and allows undergraduate students to participate in research, something that is unique about the College.

Recently, President Barack Obama announced a plan to reduce student loans. Starting this May, individuals will only have to pay 10 percent of their income toward loans and will have less time to pay before loan forgiveness is allowed. This way, college graduates will have more options in paying off student debt and, hopefully, be better off financially.

With the dip in enrollment in graduate schools, we wonder if Obama’s plan will provide more of an incentive to attend graduate school right after students finish their undergraduate degrees. Some past students have enjoyed getting their graduate degrees right after finishing at the College, while others have taken time off before deciding and still others have decided graduate school just isn’t the thing for them. Each student is different, but they each deserve the chance to make the right choice for them — regardless of the money market.

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