COVID-19

Dozens of Ph.D. programs are suspending admissions

Erika Beras Sep 29, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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
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
HTML EMBED:
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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

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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