To Fix Graduate Education, Johns Hopkins U. Grapples With Some Trade-Offs
"The critiques of graduate education have been building in recent years: Too many programs, scholars warn, enroll too many people who struggle to make ends meet while in graduate school, take on too much debt, and outnumber the tenure-track jobs they are being trained to fill," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. "At the Johns Hopkins University, administrators watching the shifting landscape have decided that the time has come to respond. The humanities and social-science programs in the university's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences compete for top graduate students with fellowship packages that fall far short of those offered by rivals. Students who do enroll often find themselves in financial straits over the summer, when stipend money runs out. That can thwart research plans and lengthen the amount of time it takes to earn a Ph.D. Seeking to fix these problems, administrators are proposing to raise graduate-student stipends. What Johns Hopkins is finding, however, is that fixes require trade-offs. And, in turn, trade-offs invite controversy. To increase stipends for graduate students and attract top candidates, programs would have to cut enrollment. That means fewer graduate students to work as teaching assistants and fewer people to contribute to vibrant debates in small seminars. ... Katherine S. Newman, dean of the Krieger school, says its limited finances meant that it had to make a tough call: 'Take in fewer students, so we could support them at the robust levels that they need to be fully devoted to their research year-round and be competitive in an unprecedented job market.' Other institutions have made similar choices. In response to the economic downturn, Columbia University cut its incoming cohort of graduate students in 2009 by 10 percent across its programs. Columbia had planned to return its graduate-student enrollment to prerecession levels once the economy turned around, but officials decided otherwise. The university instead increased the financial-aid packages that graduate students receive, which put the support in line with peers' offers. Elsewhere, the Graduate Center at the City University of New York has said that it would cut enrollment across its graduate programs by one-fourth by 2015, so that it could put more money toward helping Ph.D. students succeed through higher stipends and other assistance."
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