Report to Chancellor and Provost

The Task Force on Graduate School Restructuring has completed its inventory and assessment of Graduate School functions with particular attention to our charge of separating administrative from academic functions. We have recommended temporarily moving Interdisciplinary Programs under the Office of the Provost for additional study, and further recommend solutions for managing courses that were taught under the Graduate School, and moving degree designations back to the professional colleges. Very specific recommendations were made regarding Graduate Faculty Senate (GFS) structure and curricular functions that will be addressed by the Graduate Faculty in the fall when they return to session. We believe some of GFS activities may be transferred back to the colleges, resulting in improved GFS efficiencies without sacrificing program quality or infringing on faculty control of the curriculum.

While we agree graduate student fellowship funding should remain within the Office of Graduate Studies, the Task Force feels campus must have a robust and high level conversation concerning the future of graduate student funding and tuition waivers. There appears to be an inherent conflict between our traditional doctoral style tuition waiver policy and the ever growing number of “revenue generating” master level degree programs. In that situation, GRA waivers should be structured in a manner that supports collaboration between allied programs. For example, the rapid growth of the Bachelor of Sciences program is supported by Graduate Assistants largely drawn from the Master of Public Health Program but GRA costs are borne by the latter, creating a potential conflict of interest.

It is the general consensus of the Task Force that the remaining administrative and student service functions of the Graduate School fit well within an Office of Graduate Studies. Graduate admission is nearly a self-supporting unit that could not be as efficiently managed at the college level without significant investment of additional campus resources. Similarly, student support services and professional development programs provide great ROI for programs and students. The entirety of Graduate Studies administrative functions are managed on a GO budget under $1.9M with $0.5M of that contributed by student admission fees. Maintaining these functions in a central location is fiscally and functionally efficient, and not likely to be matched by a more distributed model of administration. 

The specific recommendations (17) of the Task Force, as well as some of the actions initiated by these recommendations, are described below in sections according to specific Graduate School functions. Each set of recommendations has considerably more detail described in the Notes of each meeting.  Should you desire to read those, I can forward a complete set. We also have elected to post the Notes and supporting materials on the Provost web page for campus review.

If you require any additional material, please let us know. We look forward to your review of this work and any feedback on the recommendations for restructuring graduate education at Mizzou.

Interdisciplinary Programs and Graduate Degrees from Graduate School

Recommendation 1 to Provost and Chancellor: Create a high level task force to examine possible administrative structures that will protect the independence of, and enhance our current interdisciplinary programs and degrees, and provide a mechanism to foster growth of new interdisciplinary programs.

Actions: (1) Formal recommendation sent to Chancellor Loftin on June 16, 2014 to create a temporary umbrella site under the Provost Office for interdisciplinary programs while campus explores best practices for interdisciplinary administration. (2) Graduate Studies is currently working with the Registrar to migrate Med School, Vet School etc programs that have a GRAD designation for diploma signature to a college Dean/Provost signature model.

Graduate Admissions Processes and Policies

Discussion Topic: Graduate admissions processes and policies. Graduate admissions at MU are administered by the Graduate School using a Hobson’s product, ApplyYourself. Approximately 95% of graduate programs use this software. The Graduate School maintains the software and personnel to verify application materials including domestic and foreign credentials, downloaded national test scores, any material requested by programs as well as an interface with MyZou and SIS. Programs make decisions on acceptance/rejection using ApplyYourself, and the Graduate School verifies all final documents prior to student notification. In 2013 this system processed over 8000 applications. Software, personnel and costs associated with national testing services are covered by application fees, thus, admissions is a self-supporting operation. Conversations with undergraduate admissions indicate they are not prepared to assume graduate admissions services as their software package is not compatible with graduate admission needs which differ from undergraduate applications. The Graduate School also ensures compliance with admissions policies established by GFS and provides waivers for such regulations as GPA minimum exceptions, TOEFL exceptions and other GFS rules that are normally enforced by Graduate School or Graduate Dean.

Recommendation 2: Keep the graduate admissions process within the Office of Graduate Studies. ROI is very high with minimal staff and near revenue neutral.

Recommendation 3: Graduate Studies should consider directing resources from admission’s application fee revenue to increase or facilitate additional program staff training on the use of ApplyYourself and/or CRM utilization; also consider possibly creating training modules.

Actions: Graduate Studies will explore hiring additional technical expertise to manage ApplyYourself, thus freeing more staff time to work in academic units on training. Alternatively, technical support could build the training modules. Graduate Studies is also exploring possible collaboration with other UM campuses to manage admissions similar to the Minnesota model.

Recommendation 4: Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies should continue to manage the exceptions for admissions compliance with GFS graduate education regulations. Graduate Studies should investigate whether associate deans of colleges want information about admissions exceptions and if so develop a process to collect and share that data without delaying or disrupting the efficiency of the current process.

Actions: Discussion with associate deans in programs will be initiated in Fall 2014 regarding communication of data.

Recommendation 5: GFS should collect all known rules and regulations regarding admissions and evaluate whether they remain relevant, efficient or necessary.

Actions: GFS will begin discussions and review of admissions policies in Fall 2014.

Graduate Student Funding Policies and Processes

Discussion Topic: Graduate student funding opportunities. In 2013 ~$1.2 million was distributed from GO fellowship accounts to graduate students and an additional ~$0.8 million from endowment accounts.  More than 200 students were funded from the Graduate School fellowship accounts. It is the intent of advancement efforts to increase the amount of funding available for graduate student fellowships. Fellowships are normally a 3-5 year commitment. Travel and dissertation fellowships as well as awards administered by Faculty Fellow in Graduate School.

Tuition waiver funds are held by the budget office and administered by the Graduate School (~0.7 FTE graduate staff handles waivers, medical insurance and qualifying assistantship verification). Qualifying assistantships of 0.25FTE receive full tuition waiver (qualifying indicates from an academic program). Non-academic programs must offer 0.5 FTE assistantships and demonstrate some relationship to the student’s academic program to qualify for waiver.  Tuition waiver program for 2013 was approaching $39 million. There are no limits on tuition waiver program; all students with assistantships qualify. Students in revenue-generating programs also find assistantships and are costing those programs lost tuition revenue. Could academic programs better manage tuition waivers? Would they remain unlimited? Someone needs to verify assistantships and work with budget office requiring staff in each program if waivers distributed. Should there be a cap on waivers? We need a long range plan for graduate student support, stipends and waivers.

Recommendation 6: Reaffirm that the Office of Graduate Studies is the ideal place to administer graduate student fellowship funds.

Recommendation 7: Tuition waiver administration should remain within the Office of Graduate Studies until a larger campus conversation can occur regarding long term plans for graduate student support and the tuition waiver policy.

Actions: Office of Graduate Studies has initiated data collection efforts regarding students receiving tuition waivers at .25 or .5 FTE by program as well as by supporting unit. Also collected are data of students paid hourly that do not reach the minimum pay level to qualify for the waiver they already received.

Academic Support and Student Services Functions

Discussion Topic: Student Services Unit (academic advising, student progress, enrollment, verifying credentials for graduation, dissertation processing).  Activities performed with 5.5 FTE (one coordinator, 2 FTE for doctoral, 2 FTE for masters, 0.5 receptionist/student support). Unit highly efficient but could improve communication about policies from GFS and automate form processing.

In 2013, 3256 graduation evaluations were conducted, 2287 degrees awarded and 682 theses and dissertations processed.

  • 709 doctoral graduation evaluations were conducted and 377 doctoral degrees awarded
  • 2547 master graduation evaluations were conducted with 1920 master degrees awarded
  • 377 dissertations submitted, 305 theses submitted
  • 291 probations processed
  • 1175 students were processed for commencement

Recommendation 8: A motion was made to maintain the present student services unit functions in the Office of Graduate Studies. Further recommend that Graduate Studies evaluate how to improve communication about functions and increase technological proficiency for student tracking (student progress system).

Actions: Graduate students of all four UM campuses will migrate to MyVita in 2015, a program that will be managed by Dr. Rubin as part of her System Academic Affairs responsibilities. MyVita has built-in workflow tracking that facilitates migration of paper forms and signatures to electronic format.

Role of Graduate Faculty Senate and Curriculum

Discussion Topic: Role of Graduate Faculty Senate in determining curriculum. Can curriculum be returned to the colleges?

This was a difficult discussion to say the least. There are institutions with graduate schools within colleges. These do tend to be large universities (NYU) with large graduate programs (17,000 students) or liberal arts colleges where the bulk of graduate education occurs in A&S. These colleges usually have an associate dean for graduate education who oversees the process. All other institutions we investigated had a faculty body that evaluated and approved the curriculum. An AAU list was prepared.

Nonetheless, because our charge as presented by the Chancellor was to return curricular functions to the colleges, we discussed how that might happen at MU and developed the following recommendations.

Since GFS has been given authority by the faculty to determine its own structure, and only a vote of the Graduate Faculty can change the functions of the GFS, we, the Graduate School Restructuring Task Force, charged by the Chancellor with reviewing the role of the Graduate Faculty Senate in graduate curricular decisions, recommend that:

These recommendations are based on our discussions regarding graduate curriculum approval and our knowledge of the rules and regulations of the University of Missouri regarding curriculum (see below).

1.       Faculty Organization

4.There shall be a Graduate Faculty organization. It shall develop its own criteria for membership, organizational structure, its own obligations and rights providing they are consonant with the philosophy and principles of the federal faculty Bylaws. The Graduate Faculty shall determine the functions of the Graduate Faculty Senate. The Graduate Faculty shall set standards for graduate education on the campus, provided they meet at least the minimum standards established by the general faculty.

5.Divisional faculties are established in the various academic divisions. They shall develop policies adapted to their specific needs, but standards of performance must not be set below those established by the general faculty.

Recommendation 9:  GFS return control of graduate course modifications to existing courses back to the colleges (Requires Graduate Faculty vote and approval).

Recommendation 10: GFS return control of new professional course approvals and modifications of existing professional courses to the colleges (Requires Graduate Faculty vote and approval).

Recommendation 11: GFS consider the possibility and implications of returning control of all new graduate course approvals back to the colleges (Requires Graduate Faculty vote and approval). 

Recommendation 12: GFS consider the possibility and implications of returning control of the curriculum (degrees, minors and certificates) to the colleges. (Requires Graduate Faculty vote and approval).

Alternatively, Faculty Council may consider modifications to the CRR to rescind the powers of the Graduate Faculty/GFS over graduate curriculum and return that authority to the Faculty Council or faculty of the colleges. (Requires a vote of the general faculty) This is not an option the Task Force prefers.

Recommendation 13: GFS, regardless of its impending structural/function changes develop ACTIVE processes for communicating with academic programs.

One Task Force suggestion (also suggested by incoming GFS president) is that GFS take an inventory of what it does and how it does it (similar to what Graduate School is doing) and evaluate what they should continue to do and what they could return to the colleges.

Recommendation 14: GFS also should re-evaluate policies for graduate education to determine whether they are relevant to our current structure and meet the needs of students and programs. Re-evaluation should also take into account online education as well as possible technology improvements to increase efficiency particularly related to student progress.

Actions: Graduate Studies has assigned dedicated staff person to assist GFS with communications, restructuring and future communication efforts with programs.

Other Academic Functions of the Graduate School

Discussion: The Task Force completed the inventory of Graduate School functions and reviewed the budget for all activities and staff. Of the many items discussed, only the following recommendations were made. A complete list of other functions can be found in the notes.

Recommendation 15: Continue to hold separate graduate-level graduations. Allow students to select which graduation they attend. Graduation is for the students.

Recommendation 16: We, the Task Force, recognize the value of PPF, CIRTL and Minor in College Teaching, and recommend they find a permanent home that facilitates their interdisciplinary nature. These courses plus the Graduate Leadership course should be combined into a new interdisciplinary program for graduate student professional development that can be housed wherever the interdisciplinary programs are housed.

Actions: The Office of Graduate Studies is exploring two possible solutions: (1) Can PFF, Leadership and CIRTL courses be included in the Minor for College Teaching? (2) Would CIRTL, PFF, and Leadership be valuable to students as co-curricular education if they were transcripted as co-curricular or as eBadges?

Recommendation 17: Recommend moving International Teaching Assistant Program (ITAP) courses into College of Education, assuming course fees can be waived. ITAP as a program should be considered within the Center for Teaching and Learning, or perhaps remain in Graduate Studies for administration.

 Actions: College of Education has been contacted regarding migration of ITAP courses starting Spring 2015. Conversations have begun with Vice Provost Spain regarding possible ITAP home in Center for Teaching and Learning.