Having been involved in graduate admissions for about a decade, I’ve been verrrry curious as to how the tanking economy would affect the number of applications to graduate school. Back during the tech boom, applications to our department went notably down, as potential applicants made the completely rational decision that earning 100K/yr (while being supplied with free soda and gym memberships) was more appealing than 5+ years at a quarter of the salary. When the tech bubble crashed, applications went right back up again.
If I were graduating from college this year, I’d look at my job prospects and decide that laying low in graduate school for a few years might not be a bad decision. You could build up credentials while avoiding the likely possibility of winding up living back in your parents’ basement. This would argue for an increase in the number of applications. On the other hand, in a time of great economic uncertainty, I wouldn’t think that investing years of education in something as peculiar as astronomy would seem that sensible. Astronomy is not going to be the high demand career of the 21st century, nor will it be big part of the stimulus package. This would argue for a decrease in the number of applications.
So, our admissions deadline recently closed, and we’re down about 15%. Anyone else willing to weigh in on where they’re at?