Tech Bucks National Trend in Graduate Student Enrollment

By Dennis Walikainen | Published

Across the United States, the number of new graduate students has declined somewhat, while the overall graduate school enrollment has increased only slightly (1.1 percent). However, those newest numbers, reported by the Council of Graduate Schools, are not reflected at Michigan Technological University.

Bucking the national trend, graduate student enrollment at Michigan Tech has increased nearly everywhere on campus. Total graduate enrollment sits at a new record of 1,303, while new master’s students have increased 6.9 percent, and new doctoral students have increased 4.3 percent.

So, why the difference?

“Students are interested in coming to our campus because of the quality of our faculty,” says Graduate School Dean Jackie Huntoon. “Many hear about us from friends and relatives who tell them that we provide great education opportunities in a wonderful place.”

Jacque Smith, director of graduate marketing and advancement, agrees. “Of course, we provide a quality education,” he says, “and we combine a lot of resources with smaller numbers of students, so it is a highly personalized graduate education.”

Research at Tech also draws students, according to Smith. “We’ve always been known for hands-on, real-life research and lab experiences.” Students graduate with less debt and more job offers, which are also incentives for students seeking education beyond the bachelor’s degree.

“And, although it’s especially true for the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] disciplines, we are experiencing growth in most areas,” he says.

Michigan Tech’s MBA offerings, both online and in person through the School of Business and Economics, have contributed to impressive gains: 15 percent from 2010 to 2011 (52 to 60 graduate students enrolled). Also, the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science experienced an increase of 3.6 percent (82 to 85), and the College of Engineering graduate enrollment increased 5.7 percent (717 to 758). The College of Sciences and Arts graduate enrollment decreased slightly (321 to 318).

Graduate programs in biological sciences showed the largest percentage increase, 33 percent (27 to 36); chemistry graduate enrollment increased roughly 12 percent (33 to 37); and electrical engineering graduate enrollment increased 8.5 percent (152 to 165).

International graduate enrollment rose sharpest among students from India, 10.8 percent (204 to 226) and from the People’s Republic of China, 5.4 percent (203 to 214).

International students in particular are attracted by Michigan Tech's reputation for safety and the fact that the faculty and staff are familiar with the needs of internationals, Huntoon added.

Female graduate enrollment increased 4.35 percent (368 to 384).

And there’s one more bonus, according to Huntoon: “Many of these students pay their own way through graduate school while they live and shop in our local area. This is all good for the economy.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.