Enrollment nearly doubles in big data master’s program

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The analytics master's program in the GW School of Business has seen its enrollment nearly double since its creation two years ago. Business school dean Linda Livingstone said the program's niche classes in areas like data mining are "a really hot area right now.”

Enrollment has nearly doubled in a 2-year-old analytics master’s program in the GW School of Business while, nationwide, graduate enrollment lags.

The master’s degree in business analytics program boasts 31 students this year, compared to 18 students when it started in 2013. And the school’s new dean is betting it will continue to grow at a time when graduate enrollment at the University has decreased across most schools.

The program includes classes in topics like social network analytics and data mining, niches that Dean Linda Livingstone said are part of “a really hot area right now.”

“We’re already seeing that program grow and we think it will be really successful for us,” Livingstone said in an interview Tuesday.

The program – which teaches students how to use and understand massive amounts of data – is part of a trend across higher education to hop on buzzwords like big data in an effort to boost graduate enrollment and help students find jobs in sought-after fields.

Last spring, graduate enrollment at the University dropped 2 percent, the first decrease in 13 years. That decline was about on par with other schools across the country.

But the analytics program could grow to about 40 students next fall, said Dustin Pusch, the administrative director in the Decision Sciences Department, which partners with the analytics program.

Pusch said that number could eventually reach 60, and “very initial conversations” have started about opening it to undergraduates or creating a five-year degree program.

“They’re things we’re thinking about because we think this is here to stay,” Pusch said. “It’s like saying, ‘Are computers or the Internet going to be around?’ Yeah, because that’s where technology takes you. Data is driving everything.”

He said officials in the school are also starting to look at curriculum changes that could split programming classes by the experience students have when they enter the courses, which would mean creating intermediate and advanced levels.

Analytics programs can also help fill a “talent gap” in tech fields, said Philppe Delquie, an associate industry professor of decision sciences.

“Companies want to be smarter about their data, and who do they hire? You have 20-year-old kids at Google that everyone would like to hire but they are almost self-trained,” Delquie said. “We have to fill the gap a little bit.”

Delquie said growth in the program would also reflect well on the business school as a whole, which slid in undergraduate rankings last year.

“When people hear your name for whatever reason, granted a good reason, if you have a strong program there’s like an aura effect,” Delquie said. “And of course if you have a successful program, the revenue that’s generated from the program helps the school accomplish its mission.”

Ellie Smith and Ryan Lasker contributed reporting.

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