New funding system spells trouble for master’s programs

Adrian Suarez-Avila/ Staff Writer

Seven master’s programs deemed low performing by the Board of Governors are being scrutinized for their ability to graduate a certain number of students and land them jobs in the future.

African studies, adult and continuing education and teaching, music teacher education, liberal studies, geology and earth sciences, physics and fine and studio arts are all on the chopping block. Each have rewarded fewer than 20 degrees in the last five years.

But some professors think BOG’s threat to remove these programs will do more harm than good to not only the University, but to the governing body as well, given that it may not save as much money as the BOG thinks.

Some professors couldn’t contain their discomfort at the thought of some programs being removed from the University.

“I feel that the BOG has decided to devise, in a top-down fashion, the new funding system without any form of consultation with the various university academic bodies in the state university system,” said Jean Rahier, director of the African & African diaspora studies program.

Other professors, including Tonette Rocco, director of the graduate program in adult education and human resource development, and Kiriake Xerohemona, director of the master’s program in liberal studies, declined to comment.

Executive Vice President and Provost Douglas Wartzok and President Mark B. Rosenberg outlined BOG’s criteria as well as the endangered programs in a Jan. 20 memorandum to the University.

Rahier said cutting funds from programs that don’t receive sufficient funding already will only make matters worse, and that certain programs cannot be expected to graduate more students than their current levels of funding allow.

According to Rahier and other University faculty, a main concern when dealing with enrollment in master’s programs is the amount of graduate-level teaching assistantships provided to these programs for their students.

“It is a challenge for a full-time student to get through a master’s program without the financial benefit of a teaching assistantship or a research assistantship,” said Laurel Collins, professor in the department of earth and environment.

As a result, more students tend to enroll in doctoral programs, where teaching assistantships are more common.

In the State of the System Address, BOG Vice Chair Mori Hosseini declared the Board would not continue to tolerate “degrees that don’t create jobs or address workforce needs.”

But some of the master’s programs listed actually provide financial perks, according to their faculty.

“What is sometimes not recognized is the fact that some employers prefer students with master’s degrees for certain jobs,” Collins said.

Collins pointed to the geology program’s focus on developing skill sets rather than research knowledge.

Others shared similar views on the value of the master’s programs in which they are enrolled.

“I am planning to apply what I learn here in life,” said Shaneequa Castle, a graduate student and assistant in AADS. “I want to teach students about my culture, students who haven’t had to chance to learn about it.”

According to Castle, other students in the program are interested in applying their acquired knowledge to make contributions to other sectors, such as business.

“What one learns here can be applied to a variety of professions, and that is overlooked often,” Castle said.

“Eliminating a master’s track will save the BOG no money whatsoever,” said Brian Raue, professor and graduate program director in the department of physics.

“The master’s program isn’t an emphasis, as far as physics is concerned,” said Raue. “The coursework that’s tied to the PhD program is linked to the master’s, so no coursework is being saved.”

According to Raue, if the issue is to produce more graduates from the master’s program, then the department has a solution.

“We can make it a requirement for our students to get a master’s degree en route to a PhD.”

Despite the concern that the news may inspire, the BOG’s new funding determination system has yet to undergo legislative approval.

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