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U.S. must invest in graduate education, says commission

A new national report on graduate education recommends the federal government establish a new grant program for students as part of a push to increase this country's domestic talent pool.

The report from the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education starts with a few assumptions – one, that the graduate degree will quickly become the new bachelor's degree – the minimum requirement for a high-skill job. Two, that the country's "capacity for innovation" depends on the strength of its graduate education system.

Flickr photo by pthread1981

The commission includes a handful of state education leaders: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, UC Davis Graduate Studies Dean Jeffery Gibeling, and USC's Advisor to the Provost John Seely Brown.

Members propose that the federal government create a new program to support doctoral education in fields that the administration identifies as areas of national need, the report says.

The doctoral traineeship program would take aim at boosting the number of U.S. citizens in graduate school in light of expanding international opportunities, the authors argue:

Europe produces more doctorates in science and engineering than are produced in the United States. China and India are making substantial investments in their graduate education systems. A recent Wall Street Journal ranking of accelerated MBA programs awarded six of the top 10 places to non-U.S. graduate programs.

As the report's authors envision it, the government would provide stipends of up to $80,000 per year per student for up to five years for graduate students in high-need areas, building up to a $10 billion program by 2016.

Attrition is one of the central problems for the country's graduate education system, the report's authors opine. According to a 2008 report from the Council of Graduate Schools, 10-year completion rates for doctoral students ranged from 42 percent in computer and information sciences to 78 percent for civil engineering.

Some universities have already taken steps to address some of the issues outlined in the report. The authors cite a program at UC Davis that focuses on enhancing faculty preparedness to mentor students along the pathway from applying to grad school, to being a student, to conducting research, to a professional career.

Filed under: Higher Ed, Daily Report

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