GRE Participation Down

Dip in test taking is first time there's been a decrease during an economic downturn.

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The Educational Testing Service is reporting that they expect the number of GRE tests taken this year will go down, the first time there has been a dip in participation in an economic downturn, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed report.

ETS expects to administer only about 621,000 to 625,000 tests by the end of this year, a decrease from last year's record high of 633,000. The drop is slight but is a cause of concern for postgrad educators, who expected an increase like those seen for the GMAT (10.4 percent) and the LSAT (6.2 percent), the entrance exams for business and law schools, respectively. Typically during a downturn, interest in graduate school goes up.

Educators have various theories as to why the GRE numbers are expected to drop:

  1. This year is just an anomaly.
  2. This recession is different from ones past and people are "feeling poorer" or are clinging to their jobs more strongly than before.
  3. The perception that the private student loan market is tightening up.
  4. The perception that school budgets are being slashed and fellowship opportunities are drying up, discouraging applicants.
  5. The rush will come soon enough. "It could be that this has created a temporary pause where we would have normally seen a flow to graduate school," said Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. "That the flow hasn't started doesn't mean it won't."
  6. Educators are particularly worried that the GRE numbers reflect a decreasing interest in graduate programs. The timing couldn't be worse as some schools enroll more undergraduates, yet have also been hit with faculty hiring freezes, forcing programs to rely more heavily on graduate student instructors to lead more classes.

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