Sour economy drives rise in applications at Yale art schools

Following a national trend, all of Yale’s arts-orientated professional schools saw remarkable increases in the number of applications they received this winter — although applications to the Drama School remained stagnant, as they have for the past decade.

The schools of Music, Art and Architecture saw jumps between 15 and 27 percent this academic year. Admissions directors cited the sour economy and the rising prestige of their schools as potential reasons.

“The last two years have been incredible,” said Thomas Masse, the director of admissions at the Music School. “I’ll take 16 percent.”

The New York Times reported that applications to professional schools across the country have risen an unusually large amount. The Emory business school saw an 80 percent increase in applicants, University of California at Los Angeles saw a 90 percent increase, and the University of Chicago a 100 percent increase.

Applications to programs at the Drama School increased 1 percent across the board, although individual departments — such as Sound Design and Acting — saw larger jumps.

For the last 10 years, the number of applicants to the school has fluctuated between 1,000 and 1,200. The admissions committee usually accepts around 5 percent of all applicants.

“Everyone is saying the current economic situation is [driving up] applications to grad schools,” said Maria Leveton, the Drama School registrar. “But I don’t think it necessarily applies to theater schools.”

But applications to New York University’s drama programs have increased nearly 11 percent this year alone, said Dan Sandford, the director of graduate admissions at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The Tisch School is widely viewed as one of the few drama programs on par with Yale’s.

Sandford said he was “besieged” by applications — although he added that in the wake of September’s terror attacks, New York City may be of special interest to applicants.

Despite the departure of Drama School Dean Stan Wojewodski Jr., Sandford said Yale’s reputation was unimpeachable.

“I’m surprised,” Sandford said. “[Yale is] the No. 1 acting program. [Yale is] Hertz, we’re Avis. We try harder.”

Sandford said he was unaware that Wojewodski was leaving, and that he doubted his departure would have any impact on application numbers. New Drama School Dean James Bundy DRA ’95 will begin his Yale tenure this summer.

Masse said some of the increase at the Music School could be attributed to smart hirings, particularly the recent arrival of Joseph Schwantner to the Composition Department.

“It’s a slam dunk for composing,” he said.

He added that the Music School has recently made an effort to attract a more geographically diverse student body, and the applications he has received reflect that effort.

By contrast, the Art School does not attempt to recruit students — except minorities — since the school already has enough of a reputation to attract a talented student body, said Patricia DeChiara, the school’s director of academic affairs. She said that the number of applications had nevertheless grown by at least 15 percent.

And the Architecture School saw an increase of 27 percent, said Grazyna Kirsch, the school’s registrar.

“Maybe our reputation is getting better,” she said.

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