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Graduate Applicants Markedly Increase

By Eric J. Cholankeril


Applications for admission to MIT’s graduate programs are up by more than 800 this year, or about 10 percent, as many college graduates face a crippled job market due to the weak economy.

According to Associate Director of Admissions Elizabeth S. Johnson, 11,617 graduate applications have been entered thus far into the MIT admissions office database for matriculation in the 2002-2003 school year. This number does not include applicants to the Sloan School of Management or Master of Science in Engineering (MEng) applicants from within MIT.

Last year, the Admissions Office recorded a total of 10,798 applications, excluding applicants to the Sloan School and internal MEng applicants.

Departments “may still be accepting qualified applicants,” Johnson said, noting that the numbers were not final. “We’re definitely up, but we’ll be up even more when the dust settles.”

Faltering economy to blame

Many feel that application numbers are up this year for graduate programs mainly due to the faltering economy. “I think [the high number of applications] is probably related to the economy being down,” Johnson said.

Regan agreed, noting that similar statistics were observed during “the economic downturn in the 1980s.”

However, Kathryn M. Kaminski G, who recently applied to the PhD program in Course VI, felt that the economy did not affect her decision to apply.

“I feel like I could get a job if I really wanted to ... but I want to go into teaching,” Kaminski said. “I guess I’m lucky that it is my decision.”

Course VI numbers up 20 percent

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (Course VI) has received “close to 2800” applications for graduate degree programs, according to Course VI administrator Calestine M. Carney. This is an increase of over 500 from 2001, when 2230 applications were received.

Anne M. Hunter, another Course VI administrator, said that about 360 applications for the MEng program have been received. “My impression is that it stayed consistent [from previous years],” Hunter said.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering (Course II) has received over 120 more applications for graduate programs this year, according to Course II administrator Leslie Regan. About 740 applications have been processed this year compared to 620 last year.

Electronic applications accepted

Another possible explanation for the increase in applicants this year may be the fact that it was easier to turn in application materials -- this was the first year that applicants were allowed to apply for most of MIT’s graduate programs online.

“Over 60 percent of the applications, excluding Sloan, came in electronically,” Johnson said. “It may have increased applications somewhat.”

Carney agreed, also noting that students were able to pay application fees over the Web with credit card for the first time.

Stipend raise has little effect

The increased stipend awarded to Course VI teaching assistants has had almost no effect on the number of applications for teaching assistantships.

According to Course VI Executive Officer and Professor Frederick C. Hennie ’55, 207 students applied to be TAs for the spring. In the fall of 2001, 205 students applied.

“I don’t think it had a major effect,” Hennie said. “I don’t think too many students knew about the increases, but those who did seemed excited.”

Only doctoral candidates who have previously served as teaching assistants are eligible for the $185 bonus, beginning this term. There are “at least 20” teaching assistants this term who are receiving the pay raise, Hennie said. Normally, TAs are paid $1850 per month; those eligible for the increase are paid $2035 per month, beginning this term.

Everest W. Huang G, a TA for Stochastic Processes, Detection, and Estimation (6.432), benefited from the increase. “It was a nice addition, but I probably would have [been a TA] anyway,” Huang said.