The Council of Graduate Schools has released their annual report on graduate enrollments here.
Here's their key point:
“The strong growth in first-time graduate enrollment is an indication of the continued high value of graduate education,” said CGS President Debra W. Stewart. “In particular, the 6.0% gain in first-time U.S. enrollment reflects the increasing necessity of a graduate degree to successfully compete in a 21st-century knowledge-based economy,” she added.
I'm skeptical. I think it's more a reflection of the fact that the labor market is terrible, so the opportunity cost of graduate school is low. If you dig into the figures, you'll see a few interesting things:
- The field with the biggest 1-year gain in applications is health sciences. I imagine these are people seeking professional degrees in areas like nursing / physical therapy / etc. (Figure 3.2)
- The biggest longer term growth is in lower tier schools, especially those classified as "Other" (Figure 3.3). Maybe this is all the online schools?
- Health sciences have had big growth in part time enrollments (Figure 3.7), which reinforces my belief that lots of these people are in essentially professional degree programs in health care.
- Health sciences doctoral enrollments have had substantial growth over the last decade. That I imagine is largely the result of the NIH budget doubling and its aftermath.