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Grad Student Apps Stay Down from ’03, Depts. Change Size

By Jenny Zhang


The number of applicants to MIT’s graduate programs has stayed down this year after a drop of 12 percent in 2004. The number of international applicants increased slightly, but not enough to counter the 17 percent drop in 2004.

As of Feb. 8, there were 11,122 graduate school applications excluding those from the Sloan School of Management and the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Masters of Engineering program, compared to 11,142 at this time last year, said Associate Director of Admissions Elizabeth S. Johnson.

The drop in 2004 followed a national trend of decreasing numbers of international students, perhaps as a result of stricter security policies following Sept. 11 and increasing competition from universities outside the United States. This year, at 5,564, the number of international applicants is four percent higher than it was last year and comprised 50 percent of the total applicant pool. Domestic applications dropped by four percent compared to last year.

The numbers are not final, because some departments are still accepting applications. Johnson said she expects about 800 more applications to be added to the current pool.

Math to double matriculation

Last year, because of shortages with fellowships, the Mathematics department accepted fewer applicants, and only 16 enrolled, said Pavel I. Etingof, Associate Mathematics Professor.

This year, Etingof said, the mathematics department plans to have 32 graduate students enroll, with about two-thirds in pure mathematics and one-third in applied. They have 261 and 110 applicants respectively this year. The number of applications and breakdown is similar to last year’s he said.

The total number of graduate students in mathematics had typically been around 120 but recently decreased to 107, and the plan is to build it back up, Etingof said. The mathematics department has been conservative with its budget and feels that it currently has enough to support more students and “can gamble to a certain extent,” he said. In addition, as a result of having a smaller graduate body, there has been a problematic shortage of teaching assistants.

This year, Etingof said, he is especially pleased with the applicant pool and is willing to admit more because there are so many strong applicants. In the past, the matriculation rate has been around 50 percent, he said.

Courses I, VI to reduce size

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science is planning to reduce its graduate student body because it has grown from 500 to 700 over the last few years, and this is “more than our faculty can handle,” said Arthur C. Smith, EECS professor and graduate officer. He hopes to admit about 160 of the 2,495 applicants, he said. Last year already, fewer students were admitted as part of this goal.

Patricia A. Glidden, graduate admissions coordinator of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said that because the construction management program has been removed, the department anticipates admitting 80 applicants rather than the usual 100.

The graduate department has received about 350 applications but is still accepting some from “a few stragglers” although the official deadline was Jan. 3, she said. One difference between this year and last year is that the applicant pool consists of 65 percent international applicants and 35 percent United States whereas it has usually been evenly split, she said.