Daniel Krug, GSB ‘14, graduates this May.
He, like many of his classmates, will not be attending graduate school. Krug, who majored in business administration with a minor in economics, is hoping to join a company that, in his words, “promotes economic welfare by providing loans to small businesses.”
Several things factored into his decision not to seek further education, but Krug says that his primary reason for the choice was that it just made more sense for his career.
“My reasons for choosing a degree in business were centered on alleviating poverty through economic development post graduation,” Krug explained. “Once I leave Fordham, I hope to immediately use my degree to achieve this goal.”
Krug’s decision is not uncommon among today’s college students. According to a 2012 New York Times article, graduate enrollment surged in 2008 and 2009 as students sought to better their employment opportunities in the face of recession and a poor job market, but after those years it began to drop off. From fall 2010 to 2011, the number of students enrolling in masters and doctoral graduate programs declined by 1.7 percent, a significant figure. The article cites “increasing debt burden” as one of the reasons that many have begun to view entering the workforce as a more rational option than graduate school.
Katie O’Brien, FCRH ‘14, is one of those students whose reasons for opting out of graduate school included financial constraints.
“I have two younger brothers who will be attending college soon, and it does not make financial sense for my family to be paying for school for that many people,” O’Brien said. “Beyond that, taking out another set of loans for grad school is out of the question when I still have undergrad loans to worry about.”
A communication and media studies major and political science minor, O’Brien says that she feels confident in this decision, even though she admits it is not necessarily the norm within her academic track.
“I feel that I am very ready to enter the workforce, and that grad school would feel a bit like delaying the inevitable,” she explained. “I am quite excited to set off on my own and begin creating a life for myself… Grad school would only put a halt in the current momentum track that I’m on.”
Such financial constraints have become even more prevalent as the number of scholarships available to graduate students hasdeclined. According to The New York Times article previously referenced, state budget cuts have made it much more difficult for public universities to provide financial aid, where in past years, “graduate students…in some disciplines have traditionally been paid to attend postgraduate programs.”
The decision to enter the workforce directly after earning an undergraduate degree is increasingly commonp; however, there are still many students who make the choice to pursue higher degrees, financial burden and additional years in academia notwithstanding. Often, the decision is dictated by career choice.
Tom Merante, FCRH ‘14, is one of those students. From the time he entered college, Merante knew he wanted to be a lawyer, so applying was a non-decision for him. The real question was where he would go.
“I applied to eight law schools, and began the application process as soon as I received my June LSAT score,” Merante said. His current plan is to attend Cornell Law School, though he is still waiting for a decision from NYU Law, where he was waitlisted.
And, lawyers-to-be are not the only ones who essentially have the graduate school decision made for them. Lisa Hipp, FCRH ’14, GSE ’15, and TJ Alcala, FCRH ’13, GSE ’14, both plan to be teachers, and are currently working on their Masters degrees through Fordham’s Graduate School of Education. They said that it was simply a logical, necessary step in their educations.
Unlike Merante, Alcala did not enter college with any specific track in mind. He was quickly, and rather unexpectedly, drawn to math while taking Euclidian geometry during his freshman year at Fordham, and did well in the class. Eventually, he started leading study groups for the class and tutoring his fellow students. This experience, he recalled, is what gave him his first taste of what teaching might be like.
“The feeling of helping someone arrive at a new understanding gave me a new appreciation for the profession of teaching, and the pure joy of seeing someone succeed aided by my guidance solidified in me a desire to pursue such a career,” Alcala said.
The decision to attend graduate school came later, during his junior year.
“I began considering Fordham’s GSE, and the decision to stay was fairly straightforward,” he said. “The program offered me the ability to take graduate-level courses during my senior year…meaning I would have to stay only one year more to complete a Masters.”
Hipp had a similar experience in her path to becoming a student of education, though her concentration is science instead of math. She already knew that she wanted to teach upon entering Fordham as a freshman, so she joined the education graduate school’s five-year track as soon as she heard about it.
“Attending the seminars and doing my field experience helped me see what my future could look like,” she said. “The decision to continue the program after graduation was not a difficult one, especially since I get to stay at Fordham and continue playing on the volleyball team.”
Alcala’s decision was not quite as clear-cut. “For me, graduate school was not always the goal…I knew that if I wanted to become the best teacher I could be, I would need a solid foundation in and understanding of basic educational principles and instructional strategies.”
More than anything, graduate school today is viewed as a strategic move. Far from degree-collecting, students are adapting to the changing economy and havingmarketable skills through higher degrees or work experience.