October 18, 2023
Enrollment in graduate and postgraduate programs declined from 2021 to 2022 even as the number of applications increased, according to a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools.
Applications to graduate programs rose by 3.9 percent over all, a bump that was buoyed by especially sharp growth at institutions exclusively offering master’s degrees, which saw an 18.8 percent increase in applications, and doctoral programs at R-2 institutions (those with “high research activity”), which saw 10.4 percent more applicants.
But fall 2022 enrollments were down 4.7 percent over all, a sharp decline particularly striking when compared to the application boost. Doctoral programs at R-1 universities saw a 6 percent drop, and medical and other professional program enrollment fell by around 2 percent each. Enrollment in graduate programs at master’s-level colleges and universities rose by 2.5 percent.
The downturn in graduate enrollment is a reversal of an uptick during the pandemic, when enrollment grew by 1.8 percent in 2020 and again by 8.9 percent in 2021. The report’s authors declined to speculate on the state of graduate enrollments in 2023, citing a lack of available data. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center should have data on fall 2023 enrollment in the coming weeks.