Meeting 2: April 29, 2014

Review of Meeting Notes from April 24, 2014.

There was agreement that they reflected the discussions and actions of the Task Force.

As a follow-up to our April 24th discussion regarding Interdisciplinary programs, a list of these programs was shared. These are graduate programs that currently have a “GRAD” designation assigned by the Registrar and whose diplomas are signed by the Graduate School Dean. There should be no problem reassigning many of these programs to the colleges such as Biomedical Sciences to the CVM and Medical Pharmacology/Physiology to the Medical School. Interdisciplinary programs that cross colleges are more challenging. We also have many certificates and a few minors such as the minor in College Teaching which is managed by the Graduate School. These also will need homes.

Admissions Background Information

Processing: A list of AAU universities, as well as a few SEC institutions demonstrates that admissions can be either decentralized such as at Michigan State University or centralized. Centralized processes can be housed in the graduate school, a common admissions office or even a system/state admission system. Decentralized processes tend not to be integrated or fully online other than submission of PDF copies. Within institutions that are decentralized, larger programs such as Life Sciences at Michigan State University have developed their own semi-online application system. Current students expect admissions to be “online”, easy and a one-stop shop.

A detailed summary of graduate admissions activities was provided. The graduate admissions office uses software purchased from Hobson’s called ApplyYourself which is an application processing system and also a CRM (customer relationship management) system which is utilized for recruiting. These two systems will be integrated in the next generation of Hobson’s products into an Education CRM Suite that allows institutions to track their student lifecycle from application to completion (Student Lifecycle Management, SLM). MU graduate office of admission has been working with Trulaske MBA programs to develop recruiting materials and is currently working with Public Affairs to develop CRM material. The goal is to bring more programs online over the next 1-2 years to increase recruiting and provide more efficient recruiting mechanisms. The cost of the CRM is ~$37,000 a year while ApplyYourself is ~$56,000.

Through ApplyYourself, the graduate school and programs have moved away from paper-based applications that were then shipped to the graduate school for processing to a fully integrated, online system that utilizes admissions staff for processing but programs have complete access to review applications, make decisions, and communicate the decision to the graduate school for the next level of processing (MyZou, ID numbers, notification etc). Programs also have the ability to customize the application process to request and receive materials for review (Resume, reference letters, essays etc). Test scores can be uploaded automatically eliminating the need for students to mail GRE and other scores to either the program or the graduate school. With over 100 programs and 100 different requirements – the system is tailored for individual program needs and not dependent on any one staff member to keep track of unique features after the system is customized. Once a student is accepted by the program, the graduate school is queued by the software to do a final review of all credentialing. For international applications, the graduate school also issues I-20 forms. Terrence is a designated school official (DSO) and can issue immigration documents within 24 hours of acceptance. The staff are also trained in foreign credentialing.

Some of the software costs, all staff (6.5 FTE) costs, foreign credential training, service contracts, costs for automatic test score downloads and general E&E expenses are covered by the application fee. Some of the software costs (~75%) are covered by ITF funds from the campus. There has been a small excess of revenue over expense in the last few years that can be used to help programs develop recruiting material for the CRM or for a technology specialist and additional staff time for program staff training in the use of ApplyYourself.

Discussion

In 2013-14, using the ApplyYourself program, the graduate school admission staff processed 8449 applications of which 3959 were accepted. A detailed breakdown of applications for the last 5 years by college and by program is provided. If these were no longer done by the grad school what are the options and implications?

1) By programs? Each program would likely either need to return to paper applications, buy ApplyYourself, or develop a home grown electronic system. Small programs could not afford the staffing or cost of commercial software. Some programs are doing their own admissions on paper (or PDF) and then routing only those accepted to the graduate school possibly because they have concerns about the application fee reducing the number of applicants. Because of the link between ApplyYourself, MyZou, and SIS those programs may not have an accurate count of applicants vs admits and appear to have 100% acceptance rate. ApplyYourself dumps data into and out of SIS daily. Data inaccuracies might be concerning for national metrics of our programs’ and intuitional competiveness.

Recommend Council of Deans discuss the issue of data reporting from programs not using ApplyYourself (no vote). Using ApplyYourself would also reduce staff time and improve efficiencies.

2) University wide process for all admissions, undergraduate and graduate? Historically these two units were together but processes were primarily paper-based. Because of the relative difference in volume of UG vs Grad admissions, it was felt, in the early 2000’s, that Grad admissions did not get the attention or specification it required. It also was difficult to process international applications and track students who changed programs or departments. The type of information required for graduate applications is very different from that for UG admissions. Currently, UG admissions utilizes a home-grown process within MyZou which would not be as flexible as ApplyYourself for collecting customized information.

UG office no longer has the expertise to process international applications, undergraduate transcripts are very different for processing than graduate transcripts and because of the recent move to renovate Jesse any consideration of even a physical blending of the staff would be two years away and simply be two different staff operating in two different software processes under one roof. This arrangement also would increase the distance between admission advisors and graduate education leadership involved in decisions regarding exceptions and waivers to the minimum admissions qualifications. A response from the office of UG admissions regarding combining Grad and UG admissions is included.

3) Query from staff contacts about using ApplyYourself suggests most have no complaints about the process and do not want to lose functionality of ApplyYourself. Not all units know how to use the full set of resources. Most of the complaints suggest some users are complaining about something that does exist, but they do not know it is available or how to access it.

Recommendation that admissions consider useing excess application fee revenue to increase or facilitate additional program staff training on the use of ApplyYourself and/or the CRM (no vote). Consider possibly creating training modules.

Are there any aspects of the application process that should go to the units. It's a centrally supported process, but it's not centralized in terms of design and decisions. Are there stakeholders that want admissions to go to the units. Not that anyone has heard. There was some general concern in the past by the deans that the graduate school was dictating things – mostly about curriculum or offer letters to postdocs. However, these concerns are not about service but more closely aligned with GFS and its relationship with the Graduate Dean. Divisions want the autonomy to control programmatic issues - but not services. Can a clear line between these always exist?

Recommendation: Keep the graduate admission process within the Office of Graduate Studies.

Task Force Vote: Yes 14, No 0, Abstain 0 (absent: Sandy Rikoon, Chi-Ren Shyu, Sam Cohen)

Admissions Rules: Created by Graduate Faculty Senate and Enforced by Graduate School

Rules

  1. 3.0 GPA minimum
  2. Bachelor degree from accredited institution
  3. Minimum TOFLE (undergraduate and graduate similar)
  4. Other rules are set by programs (GRE(set by units), other GPA requirements, higher TOFLE, etc).

Exceptions and waivers to the Graduate School minimum standards are evaluated by the Graduate School on a case by case basis. Programs are usually asked to justify the exception and in most cases the exceptions are approved by the admissions staff unless truly exceptional. Truly exception requests are sent to the Graduate Dean for evaluation and determination. For example, students with 2.7 GPA but 3.0 in their last 30 credits might be approved. Students with a 1.8 GPA or lower and a grade of “F” in their last 6 credits as a post-bach student would not be approved by the graduate school, even if already approved by the program. These are examples of requests we have seen over the last year.

Unfortunately, we have not had a mechanism to track these exceptions or the GPA of the students with exceptions that already have been made. We now have the capacity to track exceptions for future admits to assess the success or progress students with these exceptions.

There was general agreement that we do need central oversight of minimum qualifications for admissions. The Council of Graduate School (CGS) places that responsibility in the hands of the Dean or senior administrative official who oversees graduate education for the institution. Is there another kind of structure that would allow this to occur at the college or program level? Could it be delegated to the deans of the units to make decisions on exceptions? This would create a two-step process that could delay decisions and potentially confuse applicants if letters were inadvertently sent. There was agreement that someone with real and consistent independent standards should be evaluating these exceptions.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies should continue to manage the exceptions for admissions. Graduate Studies should investigate whether associate deans want information about exceptions and if so develop a process to share that information without delaying or disrupting the efficiency of the current process.

Role of the GFS

The GFS, an elected body of the Graduate Faculty, establishes rules regarding admission, including the minimum standards. A recent example of GFS decision process was a policy for accepting candidates with 3 year international degrees into graduate programs. Traditionally, at MU and in most other research institutions, a 4 year bachelor degree is required. Students from 3 year undergraduate institutions (unless a pre-existing MOU exists) have been told to spend an additional year as a master student (either in their home country or in the US) and then reapply. GFS approved a policy to allow students with 3 year degrees to matriculate into a master (but not PhD) degree program at MU and if successful transfer into the PhD program. However, because this is a provisionary admission, tuition waivers were not granted for the masters. The program faculty were very displeased with the policy and failed to see the new policy as a compromise or first intention to re-evaluate the 4 year rule. There are significant gaps in communication between the GFS and the faculty even though the GFS is comprised of elected representatives of the faculty. Revisions to the bylaws and faculty representation by college will be considered next year and may alleviate some of the communication problems.

This is just one example of trying to determining what quality of student faculty want within our graduate programs and how we manage policies. We also need to distinguish between the needs of the individual and the policies that benefit the entire institution and its reputation for graduate education. To address some of the GFS policies, we will begin by collecting the various academic rules and ask GFS to address the relevance and significance of such rules for quality graduate education at MU. The GFS also needs to compile all policies and develop a simple and logical mechanism for finding the policies and communicating policies and rational with units/divisions.

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