Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Winkler, Christa

Committee Member

Dickerson, John

Committee Member

Labat, Myron

Committee Member

King, Stephanie B.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Educational Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Education


Department of Counseling, Higher Education Leadership, Educational Psychology, and Foundations


For years, the impending enrollment cliff has been a regular topic amongst higher education officials. With this event slated to hit undergraduate programs by 2025, it is anticipated that graduate schools will begin feeling the impact by 2029. By examining factors influencing graduate student college choice, enrollment managers can identify ways to offset the decline in eligible graduate students.

This study looked at applicants’ decisions to enroll or not enroll over a 5-year period at a public, research-intensive institution. The results of this study provided insight into the individual and academic factors that influence college choice, while also measuring the impact that the length of time from application to admission has on a student's decision to enroll or not enroll. By identifying these influencers and determining which factors universities can control, enrollment managers will have a better understanding of where to invest their time and resources when it comes to graduate recruitment.

Historically, master’s and doctoral programs have been focused on selective enrollment, while the responsibility for institutional growth has fallen on undergraduate recruitment. However, administrators, faculty, and enrollment managers will need to reinvent how they think about recruitment and admissions if they are going to survive the impending enrollment cliff. Planning for the fall in graduate student enrollment now will empower higher education administrators to successfully navigate the fluctuation in the number of qualified graduate applicants before the enrollment cliff hits graduate schools.