For Many, School Replaces the Workplace

October 15, 2009 07:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Driven by the recession, many people are going back to school in hopes of finding a better job market—and better job opportunities—after graduation. 

College Applications on the Rise

Difficult economic times have brought on a surge in college enrollment around the country. In Michigan, for instance, state universities and community colleges “continue to pack in students, despite earlier concerns about shrinking family budgets and increasing tuition,” Robin Erb reports for the Detroit Free Press.

As Erb explains, almost all of the 15 state universities in Michigan, together with several community colleges in the Detroit metropolitan area, have reported an increase in the number of students enrolled this year. Oakland Community College, for example, saw an increase of 12.7 percent in student enrollment since last fall, and Macomb Community College saw enrollment rise 6.2 percent.

As Lynn Blue, vice provost and dean of academic services and information technology at Grand Valley State University, told the Detroit Free Press, the economy encourages people to go back to school as a sound, long-term investment that can help candidates find better jobs in the future. “[I]f colleges are full, it must be that education ranks pretty high in the family budget,” Blue said.

In 2008, a survey published by Kaplan revealed that “more students are turning their attention toward business, law and graduate schools as the best means of securing a future job,” Aviva Kushner reported for the Daily Targum. According to the survey, 75 percent of business schools across the country reported an increase in the competitiveness of their programs compared to previous years. “People look at graduate school as an opportunity to ride out the challenging economy or job market,” Jennifer Kadrowski, director of Kaplan Graduate Programs, explained. “If you start graduate school now, the economic condition will probably be different when you graduate, and having a graduate degree is obviously going to be something that is going to advance your career in the long run.”

Similarly, various graduate programs at Brandeis University have reported increases in their yearly applications, with a surge of 30 percent for masters programs at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and 5.8 percent for doctoral programs, according to professor Gregory Freeze. The revenues from these applications have allowed the school to better its overall budget and invest in scholarships and stipends for qualified students, Harry Shipps reports for The Justice.

Background: Obama’s community college initiative

In July, President Obama announced a $12 billion plan to transform America’s community colleges and raise graduation rates, renovate facilities and upgrade online course offerings. According to the president, the importance of these institutions lies in their function as “job training centers,” teaching workers the skills they will need to perform in their future jobs. A majority of the funding—$9 billion—will be allotted to grants intended to encourage community colleges to provide a curriculum that would improve graduation rates and better prepare graduates for future jobs or other four-year institutions.

Related Topic: Increase in volunteer travel

Volunteer travel has become an increasingly popular alternative for both laid off workers and recent graduates trying to delay their entry into the working world until the economy improves. Many are using their savings accounts or severance packages to fund volunteering trips to exotic locations such as Nepal and Central America, allowing them to learn more about the world and do something constructive for others. Programs such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America and a variety of nonprofit organizations have also seen an increase in interest, particularly from recent college graduates.

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