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COVID-19

Dozens of Ph.D. programs are suspending admissions

Erika Beras Sep 29, 2020
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A student in a face mask studies outside the closed Wilson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18. Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images
COVID-19

Dozens of Ph.D. programs are suspending admissions

Erika Beras Sep 29, 2020
Heard on:
A student in a face mask studies outside the closed Wilson Library on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18. Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images
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A pandemic is turning out to be a poor time to get a doctorate degree in the humanities or the social sciences. 

Dozens of Ph.D. programs at schools nationwide have announced that they won’t be admitting any new students for the next academic year. This temporary pause could have long-lasting effects.

Colleges and universities have a lot of additional costs these days: personal protective equipment, remote learning infrastructure, COVID-19 tests. And with fewer students on campus, they have less money coming in. So schools are “making sure they can fulfill their commitment financially to the students who have already matriculated,” said Carla Hickman of EAB, an education consulting company.

One way they can do that is by not admitting new students. Princeton University sociologist Dalton Conley said that’s the decision his department made in regards to Ph.D. students.

“It made more sense to suspend admissions for one year and have those resources than to be killed by 1,000 little cuts,” he said. 

But students from poorer backgrounds may not be able to wait for schools to restart admissions, so they’ll pursue other careers. Suzanne Ortega with the Council of Graduate Schools said that’s bad for diversity.

“We’re disrupting the flow from a more diverse undergraduate student pipeline to a less diverse student pipeline,” she said.

Even undergraduates are likely to feel the effects, said Gwen Chodur with the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, especially at big state universities.

“Where the graduate students do the majority or close to the majority of the instruction of the undergrads, this might make it very challenging to continue to provide the same quality of education,” Chodur said. 

But this pause could also give graduate programs time to change. Conley said with field research suspended, “we have to rethink, we have to develop courses and curriculum in, for example, virtual ethnography.”

And that, too, will take resources. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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