Graduate School admissions stable

The number of graduate students who accepted offers of admission this year stayed roughly the same as last year’s total, as administrators lowered the number of offers made to accommodate an expected rise in yield.

After applications increased this year by 9 percent, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said he expected the tighter job market to spur college graduates to return to school. To accommodate a potentially higher yield without straining the budget, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences accepted slightly fewer students than it did last year, though Butler declined to release the exact figures.

This year, 466 students have accepted offers of admissions compared to 464 last year. The figure may change slightly in the next few months, as not all departments have submitted their acceptance numbers and some students will still choose not to attend.

“I think in retrospect, it probably was a good idea to reduce the numbers a little bit,” Butler said. “If we hadn’t reduced the offers, it’s possible we might have ended up over our targets in a way that would have been costly.”

He said this year is “surprisingly normal.” Had the Graduate School not made offers of admission with extra caution, however, enrollment could have increased by as much as 7 percent, Butler said.

Final overall enrollment will likely be within 1 or 2 percent of the school’s target, Butler said, but he added that yields have varied by division.

In the humanities, Butler said, the yield is slightly down, while yield in the social sciences is up and yield in the sciences has remained constant.

“Frankly, it’s simply impossible to explain why that’s the case,” Butler said of the variation. “There isn’t much of a rhyme or reason to these. It’s called individual choice.”

Some departmental administrators also said they are pleasantly surprised by this year’s admissions outcome.

Truman Bewley, director of graduate studies for economics, said he assigns to each top applicant the probability that he or she will attend, then makes as many offers as necessary for the probabilities to add up to the target enrollment — 22 students. This year, he increased the probabilities slightly to account for the economy, but said he was worried because he had not realized that other universities had cut back on their offers.

“We had a lot of acceptances at the beginning,” Bewley said. “So I got very scared that we’d end up with a class of about 30.”

In the end, though, exactly 22 students enrolled.

Unlike the members of the larger economics department, professors in some departments, such as French, said they were pleased to have higher yields.

The number of students who have accepted offers in the French department is higher than in the past, Director of Graduate Studies Maurice Samuels said. He attributed the increase to the economy as well as to increased recruitment efforts. Still, he said, if matriculation were any higher it would have been worrisome.

Butler said the outcome of next year’s round of admissions is too difficult to predict, as it is in part dependent on the economy. The Graduate School will consider potential strategies when admissions season begins again in the fall and administrators know the extent to which other institutions reduced their target enrollments, Butler said. The situation in the future will also depend on the financial states of Yale’s peers, Bewley added.

“It’s exceedingly important to have one’s ear proverbially to the ground,” Butler said.

He explained that continuing economic difficulties will lead to increased interest in doctoral education, but that the link between the two is inconsistent and unpredictable.

“The task of every graduate school is to figure out how that plays into the number offers that should be made,” Butler said. “Now we have to use our information to make the most intelligent decisions we can for the admissions in the fall.”

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