In the midst of an economic contraction and an ongoing terrorist threat, officials said they think Yale’s four arts schools may see an increase in applicants seeking to escape dreary current events.
“I think in the next few months people will be channeling energy into artistic pursuits,” said Thomas Masse, the director of admissions and student affairs at the School of Music.
Such a trend would have historical precedent.
“Generally speaking, with downturns in the economy, admissions go up,” said Patricia DeChiara, director of academic affairs at the School of Art.
She said the number of applications climbed steadily throughout the early ’90s, despite an economic recession. By itself, 1991 saw a 9 percent increase in applicants.
Since applications are not due until January, however, DeChiara emphasized that it was too soon to be certain. Admissions officials in the Drama, Architecture and Music schools were also cautious.
“It’s still to early to tell,” Masse said.
DeChiara speculated that one reason applications may go up in hard times is that artists fear a poor market for their product. Accordingly, they gravitate to the stable environment of graduate school.
For this point in the admissions cycle, both the School of Music and the School of Art have a record numbers of applications. Masse and DeChiara said it could be the result of a statistical fluke, the new online application or prospective students’ fears about slow mail delivery due to the anthrax threat.
Victoria Nolan, the managing director of the Drama School, had a less optimistic view about the consequences of the contraction. As the cost of the Drama School has risen, she said, a graduate degree may have become infeasible for aspiring actors and technicians.
“Why go to graduate school when the chance of an actor making more than $10,000 a year is pretty slim?” Nolan said.
Nevertheless, she said the Drama School “enjoys a huge number of applicants.”
“The numbers have fluctuated from year to year but not hugely,” said Nolan, who has worked at the school for nine years.
Masse also said there may be no admissions jump.
“As I traveled around this fall I noticed students were less ambitious about their futures,” he said. “It’s something you sense in every student right when you meet.”
Masse said students seemed to be uninterested in going to graduate school right away. Those in New York, in particular, seemed to be distracted by the terrorist attacks.
The attacks have also taken a bite out of the New Haven economy, a potential problem for local museums and theaters.
The general manager of the Omni hotel, David Jurcak, said that the hotel had $500,000 worth of cancellations in October alone, with a 40 percent drop in group reservations.
He said he anticipated that business would fall off 25 percent from the same period last year.
The School of Drama has seen a similar drop in theater subscriptions — sales have averaged about $1,500 a week where normally the theater takes in around $5,000.
“Wisdom from colleagues around the country [suggests] it would be prudent to be careful with pennies,” Nolan said.
Box office ticket sales, however, have made up most of the difference, and shows are still making money, Nolan said. She described the last two Yale Repertory Theatre productions as “huge successes.”