Enrollment steady for grad students

By Ruth Stevens

Princeton NJ -- Princeton's Graduate School had another "very healthy year" in admissions, according to Dean William Russel.

Enrollment in the school is stable, with 574 new students expected this year -- the same as last year. Total enrollment in the school is estimated at 2,010, also the same as last year. The University registrar's office will publish official opening enrollment statistics in early October.


Graduate students enjoyed a pizza party on a recent evening in the courtyard of the Graduate College.

Applications for admission to the school remained constant as well. The school received 9,071 applications, compared to 9,009 last year.

The return on offers -- the number of students who applied and then accepted offers of admission -- increased slightly, according to Russel.

"We actually were a bit more selective this year, admitting fewer students. Overall the return was up, particularly in the Ph.D. program," he said. "There were very positive signs of growing stature in a number of departments. Electrical engineering, chemistry and economics had excellent return on their offers. Sociology did extraordinarily well, as did classics and music." He said the enrollment in master's degree programs -- particularly those in finance and in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs -- remains strong.

Russel explained that the return on offers is in the 50 to 60 percent range in the humanities and social sciences, and in the 30 to 40 percent range in the highly competitive fields of engineering and the sciences. In the majority of departments, the yield for the top half of the students admitted was as high or higher than the overall yield, which he attributes to Prince-ton's academic strength and the University's generous financial support of its graduate students.

In 2001, the University's trustees approved new funding programs for Ph.D. students. First-year fellowships are offered to all entering students in the sciences and engineering, and summer stipends for all years of study are available to students in the humanities and social sciences. The University provides full financial assistance to virtually all research doctoral candidates for the normal period of enrollment.

Russel noted that competing universities are beginning to increase their stipends for first-year students in the humanities and social sciences. "We offer a financial aid package that has more depth than other schools," he said. "Our fellowship support in years after the first two should be more attractive than support primarily through teaching elsewhere, but students don't always recognize and appreciate the significance of that."

This year's graduate admissions information also indicates that 88.5 percent of the applications received are now completed online. The online application form has been available at Princeton since 1999. In the first year, 1,126 students applied electronically, representing only 17.4 percent of applicants. This year, the number filing online forms at Princeton increased to 8,025.

While Russel expects the application process to go totally online in the future, Princeton isn't yet at that point. "We're focusing our attention more on internal steps to streamline our admissions process," he said. The school's staff plans to advance its delivery of applications to the departments, enabling them to review the materials and offer admission to students in a more timely fashion.

As has been the case in the past couple of years, the country's economic downturn has affected enrollment in some fields. "It enhances applications in areas like computer science and economics," Russel said. "Overall, it has a modestly positive effect, with people returning to school to improve their capabilities and credentials to become more competitive."

Russel listed several other statistics about the Graduate School's entering students that are similar to last year's figures:

• The incoming students include 396 pursuing doctoral degrees and 149 seeking master's degrees. There also are 29 visiting and exchange students.

• The new students are enrolled in 40 departments and programs across the University, with 52 percent of the students in architecture, the humanities and social sciences and 48 percent in the sciences and engineering. The breakdowns by discipline for all graduate students mirror those of the new cohort.

• About 38 percent of the new cohort are international students. With tightened security measures, Russel expressed some concern about students from abroad getting through the immigration process. He said only one or two serious problems have come to his attention.

• A total of 41 percent of the new students are women and 12.1 percent are from under-represented minorities.

• In keeping with University policy, all incoming students who expressed a desire for campus housing by the deadline have been accommodated. Russel estimated that about 78 percent of the enrolled graduate students will live in University housing. By this time next year, 206 new units will open in the expanded Lawrence Apartments complex.


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