Campus News

June 21, 2010

Investing in graduate education

Emory leaders are involved in promoting a new report on the future of graduate education, part of an evolving national conversation on how to increase participation in U.S. graduate degree programs to fuel innovation and global competitiveness.

The Council of Graduate Schools, on which Dean Lisa A. Tedesco serves as a board member, and Educational Testing Service, released a report in April outlining the longstanding challenges faced by graduate education, along with recommendations for increased federal funding and university partnerships with private industry.

“Undergraduate education is important to the creation of a stable economy because it provides students with foundational knowledge and work skills and prepares college graduates for a wide range of employment options,” the report asserts. “But it is graduate education that provides students with the advanced knowledge and skills that will secure our future intellectual leadership in a knowledge economy.”

By 2018, the report estimates, the number of jobs requiring a graduate degree will increase by 2.5 million, including an expected 17 percent increase in those requiring a doctorate. Meanwhile, the fastest-growing populations in the U.S. are minority groups, which historically have not been well-represented in graduate schools and have higher rates of attrition, the report notes.

“With the emphasis on educational needs in this nation, we can’t forget the role played by graduate education,” says Tedesco, vice provost for academic affairs-graduate studies. “Unless we invest in graduate education at the master’s and doctoral level, we’re not going to have the intellectual capital we need at any level.”

Tedesco, dean of the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies, was elected in January to serve on the board of the Council of Graduate Schools, representing 500 institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada.

While she was not involved in drafting the report, titled “The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States,” she has been instrumental in communicating the findings to policymakers. Recently, Tedesco visited with aides for U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson to gain their support.

“Policymakers understand that there are very critical issues raised in this report,” says Cameron Taylor, Washington representative in Emory’s Office of Governmental and Community Affairs. While Capitol Hill will be consumed this year with debate over Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination and the midterm election, “the foundation is there and next year we’re going to move the ball forward on this report,” says Taylor.

The report urges university leaders to work with employers and policymakers to address persistent vulnerabilities in graduate education. Recommendations include clarifying nonacademic career pathways for graduate students, streamlining the visa process for international students to enroll in U.S. institutions and encouraging timely completion of degrees.

For policymakers, the report suggests a new COMPETES doctoral traineeship program. The program would pay grad-uate educational costs totaling $10 billion by 2016 to support 125,000 students pursuing areas of scholarship where there is an identified national need.

Emory is working toward the report’s goals by developing innovative master’s programs that respond to professional development opportunities, says Tedesco. Beginning this fall, the Laney Graduate School will bring alumni to campus to discuss their career paths outside of academia.

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