July 9, 2011
SUNY grad students reflect national trends
Number of graduate applications at SUNY Cortland have risen the past 3 fall semesters
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Courtney Coffey, a SUNY Cortland literacy education graduate student, takes Charles Batsford through sight word flash cards in the Barry Elementary School library in this 2008 photo. The literacy education master’s program has been one of the college’s most popular in recent years.
SUNY Cortland’s graduate programs remain steady in enrollment and reflect the national trend toward high numbers in education fields, even as schools struggle to fund teaching and support positions.
Graduate school enrollments tend to grow when the nation’s economy struggles. People seek new careers or add new credentials to their bachelor’s degrees. Younger people delay their entry into the workplace by adding graduate school to their undergraduate years.
SUNY Cortland’s programs with the most students in 2009-10, the most recent academic year where statistics are available, were master’s degrees in literacy education with 215 students, health education with 107 and sport management with 91, and the school leader certificate with 82.
The numbers include full- and part-time students.
The college admissions office could not provide accurate enrollment numbers for the years before 2009-10, because the college has only recently begun breaking down numbers into how many students enrolled versus how many applied and how many were accepted, said Jose Feliciano, associate director of admissions.
But the number of applications for the past three fall semesters provides a hint. The numbers rose steadily overall, by 8.5 percent from 2008 until 2009, from 425 to 461 — and to 489 or by 15 percent if two new international sport management programs are factored into the total.
From 2009 until 2010, overall applications jumped by another 5 percent to 485. With international sport management programs in both 2009 and 2010, the percentage is 4 percent or 24 students, for a total of 513 applications.
Some master’s programs grew, notably adolescence education in biology, which almost doubled from 14 in 2009 to 27 in 2010. By contrast, adolescence education in English and social studies dropped slightly.
Literacy education continued to be strong at SUNY Cortland after dropping several years ago, with 70 applications in 2008, 88 in 2009 and 86 in 2010.
“We’ve had shifts over the years, with 350 grad students enrolled in the mid-1990s, then it peaked with 500 around 2000 to 2002,” said William Buxton, literacy department chair. “It declined until 2007, when we had about 160 or so, then it grew again.”
Buxton said literacy education has grown because many teachers in different fields want to be certified in that area, to be more employable. A literacy degree is a logical addition to academic majors related to reading and writing, such as English, social studies or foreign language, but also adds an attractive dimension to any field — math or physical education included.
The interest in literacy has also been fueled by New York state’s push in recent years to improve students’ English Language Arts scores on state tests.
“Every time the economy goes down, enrollment in education fields goes up,” Buxton said. “Education is always seen as a safe field.”
National statistics support that notion.
Education fields accounted for 27 percent of the master’s degree students, the highest number, followed by business with 24 percent. Education was the focus of 14 percent of doctoral students.
The national Council of Graduate Schools said in a report last year that graduate school applications grew by an average of 4.8 percent and enrollment jumped by 3.7 percent per year from 1999 until 2009.
For graduate programs offered at SUNY Cortland, the national Bureau of Labor Statistics had mixed news in projecting the future.
Preschool and child development jobs were projected to grow by 12 percent or 6,900 between 2008 and 2018.
Special education will grow by 17 percent or 81,900 jobs; SUNY Cortland had some growth in graduate students for that area, from 34 applicants in 2008 to 38 in 2009 and 48 in 2010.
Education administration jobs will grow by 8 percent or 37,000. SUNY Cortland has had steady applications to its school building leader certification program.
Self-enrichment education teachers, which could include SUNY Cortland students who major in recreation and leisure studies, will increase by 32 percent or 81,300 jobs. The department’s graduate program had 45 students in 2009-10.
Graduate admissions officials are waiting to see what will happen after Aug. 1, when the Graduate Record Examination — the graduate school equivalent of the SAT — changes.
The exam will last about four hours rather than its current three. The writing section will have two essays, not on topics of the test taker’s choosing as they are now. The math section will use less geometry and will test ability to interpret data in real-world scenarios. The verbal section will contain more reading comprehension, and will eliminate antonyms and analogies, which are currently part of the GRE.
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