the 2003 UCAR survey on graduate student enrollment
by Gabor Vali, University of Wyoming, and Rick Anthes, UCAR president
As part of UCARs effort to assist member institutions with their
educational efforts as well as with their research activities, we conducted
our third enrollment survey of UCAR member institutions in March 2003.
With this addition of the last two years data, the survey now
spans the academic years 199596 to 200203.
The most significant finding of the previous surveys was a steady
decline of 8% per year in the number of students applying to graduate
programs. In an article in the January 2002 issue of the Bulletin of
the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), we explored concerns raised
by that fact and the implied possibility that less-qualified students
were entering the programs. The article emphasized that the growing
horizons of atmospheric and related sciences need a strengthened population
of graduate students. That article prompted a comment by Roger Pielke,
Jr. (University of Colorado) in the February 2003 issue of BAMS arguing
that employment projections should be an important part of the assessment
of how many graduate students are needed. Further discussion will appear
in a forthcoming issue of BAMS.
All 66 UCAR member institutions were invited to send data in the most
recent survey, and 30 responded. Many thanks to these institutions!
Fourteen schools have participated in all three surveys to date, and
46 schools have participated in at least one survey.
Results from the 2003 survey show that the downward trend in applications
has reversed over the last two years (see Figure 1). Even though the
rise is small, this is good news. Although wed like to think that
part of this upturn in applications is due to our community focus on
the issue, the major reason may be a tight job market. Figure 1 includes
a breakdown of application numbers by school size, dividing the overall
average of 444 entering students per year into four nearly equal groups.
There has been little change from survey to survey in the numbers
of students admitted to programs and the numbers entering the programs.
Unlike applications, these numbers appear to be controlled more by the
sizes of departments and their research budgets. Figure 2 displays the
average percentages of applications that result in admissions and students
entering the programs. These percentages decreased over the last two
years as application numbers have increased, resulting in stable rates
of admissions and entrances.
In all, the task of bringing a capable and diverse student population
into the atmospheric and related sciences has become a little easier
over the last two yearsbut, of course, that is no assurance for
how it will go in years to come.
Figure 1. Trends
in number of applications for atmospheric and related science programs
at UCAR member institutions. The graph includes the overall sample
(full line), four groups of schools sorted by size (broken lines),
and the 14 institutions with complete application records over the
eight years. The numbers included in the legend show the yearly average
numbers of applications for that group.
Figure 2. Variations in the fraction of applications
that result in admissions and in students entering the programs.