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Graduate Schools Across Country Report Record Applications and Enrollments

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When times get tough, apparently, the tough stay in school.

Americans, confronted with this weak recovery and lousy labor market, are increasingly deciding that hitting the books seems like a better option than trying to land a full-time gig.

The Chicago Sun-Times notes that graduate schools across the country are posting record numbers of applicants and enrollments, whether looking to change careers, hoping to become more marketable or simply riding out the recession in the classroom.

Overall, new graduate-student enrollment grew 5.5 percent between 2008 and 2009, compared with 4.5 percent the prior year, according to a report Bell wrote for the Council of Graduate Schools. (Health sciences saw the biggest growth -- nearly 15 percent -- nationally in applications from 2008 to 2009).

Schools, aware of the increasing demand, are more than happy to meet the supply with new programs. For instance, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has added several new master's degree programs, like an interdisciplinary master's in something called “bioinformatics.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee that this educational investment pays off. For instance, as Slate recently reported, law schools are now manufacturing more lawyers than the country actually needs.

Law schools awarded 43,588 J.D.s last year, up 11.5 percent since 2000, though there was technically negative demand for lawyers. A number of recent or current law students aren’t happy: they went to law school and now they’re jobless, in debt, and three years older.

Unfortunately, our economy might remain challenged for quite some time. Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg writes that there has been enough research conducted that, on average, it takes about seven years to make a complete transition to a sustained recovery and bull market after a credit and asset bubble bursts — especially one of the magnitude experienced this cycle.

Seven years? Well, maybe young Americans looking to stay in school are therefore best advised to apply to medical school. Or become graduate school admissions officers.
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