Happy Octoberfest and Homecoming!
This week’s post is one I hope will generate some discussion. The broad topic is the future of our Graduate School and its place within the university. The catalyst for this discussion comes on the heels of publicity this fall at the national and state level about the push for “degree completion” agendas (President Obama, the Lumina Foundation, Kansas Board of Regents, etc.). Policymakers are focusing upon associate and bachelor’s degree completion. In Kansas, for example, our Board of Regents has established that 60% of our population will have earned a credential or degree by 2020. An external consultant to the Board this past month gave an influential presentation in which he considered this goal to be especially “ambitious” given our state’s predicted college-going population and several other factors. While the Board, legislators, and campus leaders debate the achievement of this finite statistic by 2020 as the end in itself, I find myself thinking about the implications for graduate education. A recent conversation with an analyst from Eduventures who has spent most of her career in the field of graduate admissions confirmed what we professors have been seeing over the past few years…the master’s degree is becoming the new bachelor’s degree. Our Graduate School annual growth rate appears to be pointing to this conclusion. The projected flattening of national undergraduate online growth and the fact that we have already started to experience less robust growth rates in our undergraduate online programs, makes one wonder if the balance is starting to shift to the graduate side? Our Graduate School is currently only 15% of our total enrollment (20% without our cross border partnerships). Emporia State University’s Graduate School this year accounts for 36% of the university’s total enrollment. Where are all the arrows pointing? What does this mean for the institution? What does this mean for your departmental programming and staffing? What does this mean for the minimum credentials needed to enter a highly skilled workforce? What does it mean for our students to remain competitive in their jobs for advancement? Intentionally or not, Emporia State appears to be defining itself as a graduate education provider for working adults. When you peel away the layer of our cross border partnerships, you can see that we are no different. More and more of our students are graduate students. Yet, no one is talking about this. Here is some of our data from the last three years of Graduate School exit surveys to consider:
#1] Age. Almost 40% of our students are aged 26-35. As our present 18-25 year old undergraduates enter the workforce, will the 26-35 year old demographic grow? [Note: out of curiosity, I tried to access the the National Center for Education Data Statistics to determine the projected growth rate in this age demographic, but this week’s Federal furloughs have made these services unavailable.]
#2] Gender. Women populate our Graduate School at the rate of 2:1 compared to males. This is almost exactly the same percentage of master’s degree attainment by gender found by the Council of Graduate Schools between the years 2002-2012.
#3] Instructional Method. Not surprisingly, students complete their degrees through the Virtual College at the rate of 2:1 compared to on-campus instructional methods. [Note: the use of Virtual College is likely not the best response for this question andthis question will be changed to asynchronous online instruction and synchronous online instruction to obtain better data.]
#4] Motivation. Promotion or advancement in existing career and entry into a professional career remain the top two motivations for pursuing a graduate degree. These two responses combine for 62% of the responses on this question.
#5] Program Awareness. Almost 85% of our graduates indicate they learned about our graduate programs as undergraduate students, through word of mouth/recommendation, or web searches. Interestingly, only 6% indicate they learned about our programs through a partnership.
The final day for students to sign up for comprehensive examinations was September 30. Linda and JoAnne have been working this week on getting ballots to out to advisors this week. I know that many programs are preparing for or have recently administered these exams to their students. November 18 is your deadline to turn in the results of these exams so that we can record these results and clear students for graduation.
Graduate Council will meet on October 9th to consider nine faculty members for inclusion in the university’s graduate faculty.
The Department of Leadership Studies’ request to create a new concentration in the Master of Professional Studies (MPS) program has been approved. They will be moving their Organizational Leadership program from the Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) program. After October 18th, applications for the MLS in Organizational Leadership will need to considered by the MPS in Organizational Leadership. The admission requirements and curriculum for this concentration are different and will be posted soon.
Dr. Hammond signed a unique partnership agreement with a company that markets US online programs in the Middle East. We have partnered with Talal Abu-Ghazaleh University (TAGIUNI) to market several of our graduate degree programs and certificates to working adult learners in Jordan and Bahrain. There will be a press release coming out about this in the coming weeks. This partnership represents new territory for Fort Hays State University by deploying our online graduate programs as an asset in the manner of an international partnership. Unlike our cross-border operations, these students will be treated no differently than domestic Virtual College students and we will teach these students in our existing course sections. In addition to being a source of new students for the university, it is an interesting internationalization experiment, as well.
On the topic of internationalization, Dr. Crowley gave his annual presentation about internationalization of the campus and curriculum at FHSU to this year’s class of new faculty members: Internationalization-newfaclunch2013. Leslie Paige also presented information about the services the Office of Scholarship and Sponsored Projects provides for the university.
The Center for Languages and Culture is gaining momentum under graduate assistant Christophe Cheroret. A number of faculty-led study aboard experiences are being planned for the coming intersession, spring break, and summer time frames, foreign language conversation tables and tutoring services are being organized and offered, and local excursions for our international students are being planned. Several faculty members across campus are contributing their time and talents in support of these initiatives.
The FY14 Undergraduate Research Experience (URE) grant notifications to faculty mentors have been sent out. This annual grant competition is funded by an action plan which we hope will be renewed in the coming strategic planning cycle.