BGSU graduate enrollment grows significantly
Online programs offer flexibility, career mobility and advancement opportunities
By Marie Dunn '95, '19
When Kaylani Othman graduated with her bachelor’s degree in education in May 2020, she knew she wanted to pursue her studies even further. The North Ridgeville, Ohio, native decided to stay at Bowling Green State University to obtain her Master of Education in Curriculum and Teaching.
“I wanted to pursue a master’s degree because I love learning and wanted to challenge myself further,” Othman said.
Hanna Stepanic, who entered the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program in the fall, also wanted to advance her education. After graduating from Ohio University in May with a communication studies degree, she decided that obtaining her MBA would be beneficial to her in the long run.
“An MBA can be valuable in almost any industry I choose to go into, so it just made sense for me,” she said. “The MBA program at BGSU allows me to network with business professionals as well as improve my team building and leadership skills.”
Othman and Stepanic are like many other students who recently have decided to further their education. The COVID-19 global pandemic, along with a growth in online program offerings, has contributed to a higher number of students enrolling in graduate school.
From students transitioning directly from an undergraduate to graduate degree, to professionals looking for advancement or to start a new career, BGSU graduate school has grown significantly in 2020.
Earlier this year, the University announced it was temporarily waiving the GRE and GMAT requirements for graduate certificate and master’s degree programs and waiving the graduate application fee for new domestic applicants through Fall 2021 to make graduate school even more accessible to students during the pandemic.
“There's a level of uncertainty in the job market right now, and we are seeing students who are currently pursuing a career and want the advancement,” said Erin Heilmeier, interim director of Graduate Enrollment. “For students who are graduating, a graduate degree is a great option to boost credentials and open new doors.”
Growth in online offerings
BGSU eCampus, offering 100% fully online programs, continues to grow significantly. Across the board, new enrollment in graduate programs through eCampus is up by 220% from last year.
“It just speaks to the demand that’s out there for people who can’t come to campus and sit in a classroom,” said Sherri Orwick Ogden, director of eCampus.
The nationally ranked eCampus offers 13 master’s and 15 certificate or endorsement programs with seven-week classes for added flexibility. New programs include Applied Behavior Analysis master’s and certificate, as well as certificates for Alternate Resident Educator, Instructional Design and Technology, Play and Learning, and Software Engineering.
Due to the pandemic, many graduate programs, beyond eCampus, shifted from a classroom-based setting to an either fully or partially online format. The hybrid option allows students to choose to attend class in-person or online. Stepanic appreciates the flexibility.
“While COVID-19 has changed our daily lives, the BGSU MBA program adapted and created an environment that allows us to safely attend our classes,” she said.
While growth in the Graduate College has surged in 2020, programs in the science, technology, criminal justice and business fields have experienced some of the largest interest increases. A fully online MBA program launched last spring and now has more than 300 students enrolled, a trend that is expected to continue in the spring and fall of 2021.
“The online offerings are positive, especially at a time when everybody has been looking to go online,” Heilmeier said.
Online programs have been especially popular with professionals, particularly teachers, who are seeking new skills in technology.
"The population of adult learners in the graduate programs is a mix between the students coming right out of a bachelor’s degree and those who have started careers but need additional credentials," she said. "This is a good time to do that, particularly in education."
Staying at BGSU
Othman is among the 52% of graduate students who decided to stay at BGSU to earn their master's degree after completing their undergraduate degree. She explored several different schools, but ultimately decided BGSU was the best fit.
“I found out I was able to work with former professors I had in undergrad and it made me more excited to continue my education with them,” she said. “BGSU became my home, and the people I have met made my experiences unforgettable.”
Undergraduates can also enroll in accelerated programs, which allows students to begin graduate coursework while still an undergraduate student.
“Accelerated programs are a great way for current BGSU students to continue their degrees at BGSU after they complete their undergraduate degree,” Heilmeier said. “This has become quite popular, and program offerings are expansive.”
Advancing a career
The thought of going back to school years after obtaining a bachelor’s degree can be intimidating, but Heilmeier said students who specialize in a familiar subject area makes the idea even more favorable.
“One of the great things about obtaining a master’s degree is that the papers you are writing are topics that you are passionate about,” she said. “Folding it into your professional career is a totally different game than when you were an undergraduate.”
Some students prefer to take one or two courses at a time in order to ease into the program and adjust their schedules around work hours.
“Another great way to get started is to pursue a certificate program. Many of these lay the foundation for a master’s degree,” Heilmeier said.
BGSU’s graduate college also offers a few programs as professional pathways that lend well to a working professional’s schedule.
If cost is an issue, financial aid can be obtained for graduate school. Students should fill out the FAFSA to see if they qualify. Heilmeier also suggests students check with their employer for any incentives such as tuition reimbursement.
Easy enrollment process
Virtual webinars are being offered weekly so those interested can learn more about the graduate college and ask questions about the enrollment process. Webinars are also offered for specific programs.
“Each program has a graduate coordinator who is an expert in the application process and is invested in helping graduate students get through that program,” Heilmeier said.
Orwick Ogden described the process as a one-stop-shop service, with plenty of help available for students in eCampus programs attending 100% online.
"They’re not having to navigate the campus without being here," she said. "We do that for them. We are their personal assistants."
One-on-one virtual appointments with an admissions representative also can be arranged for those who may have a busier schedule.
“The best thing to do is go ahead and apply or, at the very least, fill out an interest form and select a program because they’ll immediately have access to the resources they need,” Heilmeier said.