Economy gives University’s graduate programs a boost in applicants

The University’s graduate programs hope to attract students who want to ride out the economic storm by staying in school.

The number of applicants to the University’s College of Law increased 6 percent from last year, said Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the College of Law.

“For the first time in five years, more individuals are applying to law schools,” Pless said. “Most schools were expecting a late applicant surge … they wait-listed more people to see what the later applicants looked like. At Illinois, we went through a fairly normal process.”

At least 75,158 individuals have applied to law schools nationally as of March 20, according the Law School Admissions Council. Colleges that decide to wait list students run the risk of losing a strong turnout of applicants who accept admission. This will impact colleges financially, including the University’s College of Law, which receives funding through tuition.

“If you string people along, your yield drops,” Pless added. “They have other offers or they get annoyed of you. We try to get decisions out quickly.”

University alum Elmo Chae said he took half a year off to study for the LSAT before applying to the University’s Law School. Although Pless estimated that tuition will cost $33,000, Chae said he went through with the Law School application process.

“For me, I was already planning to go to law school before the economic troubles,” Chae said. “Since there aren’t jobs right now, it’s a good time to go back. Granted you’ll accumulate debt in graduate school, the economy can’t get much worse.”

Chae is waiting to hear back from the University’s Law School. He plans to concentrate on public interest and working pro bono or human rights and international law.

John Lee, senior in ACES, was accepted to the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University.

“Especially with the economic crisis, I know a lot more people applied to grad school, and it’s a lot harder to get in.” Lee added.

Students in the Labor and Employment Relations (LER) program receive their master’s degree in three semesters. Lee will pursue a career in human or industrial relations.

“On U of I’s LER Web site, they said 95 percent of students who graduate in LER are lined up for jobs,” Lee said. “Their average salary is $75,000.”

Pless said the College of Law expects that fewer students will accept admission this year, rather than more. The school is accounting for students who make last-minute decisions to reject schools by sending admittance letters to 10 percent more students than in spring 2008.

Now students are looking at price more than ranking, he added.

“This is a different recession than in years past,” Pless said. “It has more people thinking about debt because law school is expensive. I think the jobs will be there for the high caliber of students here at U of I.”