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Ec. Doctoral Program Admits Fewer Candidates

By Maia K. Davis

It seems like U.S. News and Harvard undergraduates aren't the only ones concerned about class size.

Responding to faculty and student criticism, the economics department of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is attempting to reduce class size--and to boost its reputation--by cutting the number of Ph.D. candidates admitted each year.

Over the last few years, more students accepted admission than the University had anticipated, and the department had ballooned.

According to officials, 25 out of 39 admitted students matriculated last year, as compared to 41 out of 65 for the 1995-96 academic year. And before that, the number of offers the University made was even higher--68 for the 1994-95 academic year and 71 for 1993-94.

Class sizes increased as a result, diminishing professor-student interaction and sparking student complaint.

"There was a feeling in the department that we had admitted too many [candidates] relative to our ability to look after them," said Richard E. Caves, Gund professor of economics and business administration.

By reducing the number of Ph.D. candidates, the department hopes to return to the "optimal mean" of years past, said Associate Professor John V. Leahy.

"The reduction is down to what we've always wanted," he said. "The last few years have been abnormally large because the department has done quite well, and we had an increase and we didn't adjust immediately."

That good reputation, though, has faltered more recently, faculty and students agree.

"One thing that had made Harvard less desirable [than other schools] is the large class size," Leahy added.

"Harvard was unusually large last year," agreed Alison D. Morantz, a second-year graduate student in the department who said she supports the department's move. "Smaller classes facilitate learning and more of a sense of camaraderie," she said.

Academia's daunting job market also played a role in the department's decision to downsize its student population.

"When the job market is slow, then the number of available positions for people in the program are going to be less," said Kathy M. Wahl, coordinator of graduate students. "Obviously, you want to have a decent job when you get out of the program.

Academia's daunting job market also played a role in the department's decision to downsize its student population.

"When the job market is slow, then the number of available positions for people in the program are going to be less," said Kathy M. Wahl, coordinator of graduate students. "Obviously, you want to have a decent job when you get out of the program.

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