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More applying to area grad schools

Applications for area graduate schools are up, and officials say the economy is playing a role.

North Dakota State University expects a record number of graduate students with a 52 percent increase in applications over this time last year.

Dean David Wittrock said the increase is due in part to the global economy, but also because of the continued growth of graduate education at NDSU.

Minnesota State University Moorhead and the University of North Dakota also report a boost in graduate school applications.

However, college career counselors don't advise going to graduate school just to delay entering a challenging job market.

"That's an expensive alternative," said Cliff Schuette, director of Career Services at MSUM. "You could do lots of things to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life rather than go to grad school."

Nationally, 27 percent of students from the class of 2009 report they plan to attend graduate school, up 3 percent from a year ago, a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows.

That same survey also reports that fewer graduates nationwide have jobs lined up than graduates did a year ago.

Less than 20 percent of 2009 graduates who applied for a job have one lined up, compared to 51 percent in 2007 and 26 percent in 2008, the survey said.

It's too early to know how many local students graduating have jobs or are planning to continue their education.

Local universities survey students about their post-graduation plans, but many wait a few months after commencement.

Richard Adler, dean of graduate studies at MSUM, said more students came to him this spring with questions about whether graduate programs would make them more marketable.

"I think people are realizing that if they go back to grad school, even if it's just for a license, they may have a better chance of getting a job," Adler said.

Joseph Benoit, UND's graduate school dean, said it's important to assess career goals to determine if graduate school is a good idea, and whether it's better to get work experience first.

This spring's graduates were more wary about finding a job, but many approached the job search aggressively and realistically, said Jay Thoreson,director of Concordia College Career Center.

"People are perhaps more wiling to accept that plan B or plan C may be the reality for the first job," Thoreson said.

There's more competition for jobs this spring, but there are companies hiring, Schuette said.

"Employers are always looking for talent and skills," Schuette said. "For the student who has the combination of talent and skills, I think they can find employment."