University News

More econ. students head to grad school

By
Senior Staff Writer

After commencement, more Brown economics concentrators and graduate students will be heading to graduate school or taking on professorships than pursuing jobs on Wall Street this year, according to Andrew Foster, professor of economics and chair of the department.

With fewer employment opportunities in finance, economics students will be taking on graduate programs in schools throughout the country and abroad, he said.

Foster said this year was unusual in that Brown’s graduate program did not have to resort to using a waitlist to fill in the incoming graduate classes, as it has in the past. Last Wednesday was Brown’s deadline for admitted graduate students to matriculate.

Normally, the economics department makes 15 to 20 offers of admissions to potential graduate students each year, with a target class size of nine.

Admissions to Brown’s graduate program in economics is decided by a faculty committee headed by Professor of Economics Frank Kleibergen.

“This time of year students are usually scrambling because they didn’t get into their top programs — for example, Harvard — then they’ll say, ‘I didn’t get into Harvard,’ and will move down to the next level,’” Foster said.

Foster said this year’s high matriculation rate is indicative of a national trend of economics students seeking out graduate school instead of direct post-college placements in jobs.
Matthew Schiffman ’09 has experienced this trend firsthand. Due to a lack of job opportunities in finance, Schiffman decided to apply to graduate school and will enroll in the economics program at the University of Chicago in the fall.

“It would have been nice to have money in the bank before pursuing grad school,” Schiffman said. “In a perfect world, I would not be working too hard and making money and having fun in New York. Then, I would have pursued graduate school a few years later.”

Though the Wall Street jobs that might have been available to him a year ago are no longer easy to attain, Schiffman is embracing the chance to go to graduate school because of the stability it brings.

“Now I have something to do for six or so years, and then afterwards, I’ll have a nice degree and more options available to me,” he said. “I see myself teaching, but then doing a lot of outside consulting — but I guess we’ll see how grad school changes me.”

Students receiving Bachelor’s degrees are not the only ones affected by the economy after graduation this spring, Foster said. The economy has also impacted current graduate students.

While 80 to 90 percent of the students will become faculty at top-rated institutions after graduating from Brown’s graduate program, Foster said that this year, more are looking for opportunities abroad.

“This year, we have graduate students heading off to London, Mexico — just a whole bunch of places. Our graduate students every year apply to different places,” Foster said. “But this year, the emphasis is more on abroad programs.”

Foster said that with the endowments of many of the best private universities in the United States impacted by the economic crisis, more students leaving Brown’s graduate economics program are seeking out professorships and research positions abroad, where universities tend to be publicly funded.

Though many economics students’ Wall Street dreams have been put on hold due to the financial crisis, Foster said many of his students are maintaining a positive attitude.

“The students I have talked to have been remarkably upbeat,” Foster said. “These are really good students who don’t seem stressed out at all. They might be surprised that their salaries are half of what they thought they would be, but many don’t see this as a wide-scale disaster.”

Schiffman said that, while his peers are not necessarily upbeat, they are dealing with the economy’s impact on job opportunities positively.

“In three to four years the economy will be back in full swing, but I don’t think that finance will ever be back to what it was,” he said. “But students of economics are still hopeful that they will find alternate jobs with a pre-business focus, they know that things will turn around.”