Faculty Senate > FSCC Report

The following is a synthesis of assessments by FSCC members of the new graduate tuition policy.

Faculty unanimously endorses the goal of improving graduate education.

Changes in graduate tuition policy--such as limiting the number of years for degree completion and giving students full support--could improve the focus, pace and quality of a graduate education. In some instances programs will be smaller, but they will be more selective.

For example, the IT Professional Master's Committee reviewed the new MS in Information Technology and concluded that it was both possible and desirable to change the degree to require completion in one academic year. The admissions standards will be set higher and fewer students will be enrolled in Fall 2002. The committee nonetheless expects to increase enrollment in future years.

However much there is unanimous support for improving graduate education and strong support for aspects of the new policy, there is, on the other hand, a consensus that the transition plan needs to be modified.

Issues differ slightly according to school. Due to the fact that currently-supported students must be fully-funded, some schools will have an increase in the number of fully-funded TAs. (This year Science has 141 full-time equivalent TAs. Next year there will be 172 fully-funded TAs, according to the most recent assessments.) Science and Engineering, for example, do not have these funds in their budgets. One means of finding funding would be to cut clinical and adjunct faculty. This would have significant impact on both graduate and undergraduate course offerings and FSCC members stressed that this could, in particular, negatively impact undergraduate education. In some Engineering disciplines "quality" is linked to being able to offer smaller studio classes rather large lectures.

A suggested strategy or solution is to "grandfather" current students. This would not change ultimate goal of establishing a new graduate tuition policy and would not hamper implementing changes in policy for incoming students. Grandfathering would ameliorate some of the sense of crisis that the faculty and administration are experiencing as they scramble to reorganize not only graduate funding but related issues such as course offerings.

An Ombusperson could be assigned to each school to help the transition as was the case with the 4 X 4 plan.

Final point regarding transition:
I think we all agree that as educators at Rensselaer our purpose is not restricted to teaching academic disciplines, but also includes instilling a sense of community, citizenship, and leadership to our students. Many feel that there is an ethical dimension to the way we handle this policy change and that we should set an example and let those students who matriculated under the previous policy finish their degree according to those guidelines. (We are aware of the "Notice Regarding Changes" that is on back of the title page of the catalogue which states: "Rensselaer reserves the right to change the course offerings, tuition, fees...and other regulations affecting its students." Although this notice allows for such changes, this situation can be seen as a type of social contact with current students.)

The major unresolved problem is how the remaining semesters after the first year for Master's and the first two years for the Ph.D. are to be funded.

Each school has it own variation of these issues. Again, I would like to stress the sense that I was given of faculty working in good faith trying to respond to the changes. However, the new policy is based on a graduate funding model found in Engineering and Science. In Architecture, H&SS and Management such models, in many instances, do not exist, or if they do, it is in a more limited fashion.

For example, Management recently surveyed 30 competitive Ph.D. programs. More than 90% of these schools received less than 5% of their funding from external grants or contracts.

At the NSF only 5% of research funds are committed to Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.

At the NEH the entire 2003 budget for requested grants--and this included not only those for research, but also those for education, preservation and public programming--is $90 million.

Key curricular challenge:
How do you maintain and enhance the quality of graduate programs and attract and retain the best students if you cannot support students for the duration of their degree?

MBA has very specific curricular issues:
The MBA needs flexibility in distribution of funds to establish as large a class as possible. All premiere MBA programs are large. Size matters in this field due to the business-networking aspect. Also, having part-time students is also important, because this enables the program to offer more breadth. Both features are essential to maintaining quality for the MBA.

Undergraduate impacted as well as graduate:
However much the focus is on graduate education, undergraduate will be impacted. FSCC members believe that if the policy is not modified somewhat, undergraduate education will diminish in quality. Some even think that undergraduate education will be affected even more quickly than graduate. The policy changes could affect class size. With one-year TAs, there will be a more inexperienced work force. Even with more TAs in certain schools next year, the number of clinical and adjuncts is expected to be reduced. If this occurs, there remains a problem because TAs must have supervision.

Again, I would like to stress that faculty are exploring new funding resources: It is crucial to raise funds to support graduate fellowships through the Capital Campaign.

There were diverse issues and opinions regarding part-time graduate students. Many believed their schools would lose part-time students with these changes.

"Absentia" status will be important for H&SS students who conduct archival or field research and there is concern that these students are allowed to register as full-time.

May 22, 2002