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Delaware grad programs see changes amid interest spike

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While nearly all colleges and universities saw lower enrollments for undergraduate students this past academic year due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a different trend has been developing in graduate-degree programs.

Enrollments are rising.

Undergraduate enrollment was down 5.9% nationwide while graduate enrollment was up 4.4% as of March 25 compared to the same time last year, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

University of Delaware graduate students like Erica Green are growing in numbers as post-bachelor education grows during the pandemic. | PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE

Delaware’s two public universities with graduate programs, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, both reported higher enrollments for their post-Bachelor-degree programs last fall. UD’s undergrad programs had a 2.3% decline in enrollment, but an increase of 3.8% in its grad programs. Meanwhile, DSU saw its undergrad population fall nearly 4% while its grad students increased by an impressive 21%.

“In terms of grad programs, we have obviously made adaptations to those programs that were primarily face-to-face, but to be honest our biggest growth area is online,” said Steve Newton, director of media relations at DSU. “We are anticipating another year of double-digit growth this fall.”

Among DSU’s most popular programs are its master’s degrees in social work, public administration, and education, the first two being offered as online programs while the latter has a hybrid approach allowing decreased time spent in the classroom.

UD also expects to continue positive growth in its more than 200 master’s and doctoral programs, as applications were already up 20% over 2020 as of April, and acceptance of grad school offers was up 53%.

“Underrepresented minority recruiting efforts are really looking good, and acceptance is up 24% over last year,” UD President Dennis Assanis told the university’s Faculty Senate.

Potentially aiding that growth is a recently approved 50% cut in UD’s base tuition rate for the majority of its grad programs, which creates a clearer cost of the programs to students starting this fall. The new base rate of $950 per credit replaces the previous $1,898, which was frequently lowered by discounts and scholarships offered through individual programs and colleges.

“Our success comes from a number of changes we have made from top to bottom. From a top level, the tuition realignment certainly played a role. We looked carefully at the situation and realized that our old structure was closing the door on many students who could benefit from what we have to offer,” said Louis Rossi, dean of UD’s Graduate College,

He added that the university was engaging in a communication push to prospective grad students on its campus as well as in neighboring regions, utilizing faculty and a new web campaign. That push has led to about 58% of offered grad students attending UD, Rossi said.

UD isn’t the only institution reassessing its grad program tuition, as Goldey-Beacom College (GBC) announced this month that it too was cutting its grad program tuition by 50% starting next fall.

Headshot of Colleen Perry Keith

Colleen Perry Keith
President of Goldey-Beacom College

GBC’s decision follows a 50% tuition cut that it instituted last fall for its undergraduate programs, now bringing all of its tuition down by half. Similar to UD’s thinking, GBC had been discounting undergraduate tuition through an institution award program for the last seven years. While that kept costs lower to students, it inflated the sticker price of the programs to prospective applicants. Its grad program will now cost $525 per credit hour for American students and $850 for international students.

“When colleges advertise their tuition rate, but then utilize tuition discounting to bring the cost down, it makes that understanding more complex and frustrating for students and parents. At Goldey-Beacom College, we wanted to avoid putting our students and families into that kind of quandary, so we stopped our longstanding practice of tuition discounting and just stated our actual tuition cost,” said Colleen Perry Keith, president of GBC.

That tuition cut may be one reason why GBC is seeing an influx of college applications for the fall semester, up 12% for American students and 22% for international students across both undergrad and grad programs.

Meanwhile, DSU said that it did not have any plans to change its tuition rates.

“We think that three years of double-digit growth in enrollment suggests that the tuition cost is set correctly, so we have not made any changes in that structure,” Newton said.


By Jacob Owens


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