Dean's View - The times they are a-changing
Almost fifty years ago, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan sang “The times they are a-changin.” This phrase certainly applies to the current state of higher education, particularly in two areas: the methods used to deliver course content and program materials and how we fund higher education. Universities that adapt to this changing landscape will be in a better position to thrive and prosper.
While it remains clear that completing a graduate degree can lead to professional and economic success, how one goes about obtaining the degree is changing from years past. Higher education is intent on keeping pace with the demand by students for electronic delivery of information. For example, enrollment in online courses grew over 10% per year for the last several years1. Furthermore, 31% of higher education students now take at least one course online1. The number of students engaged in online learning is expected to continue to increase substantially for the next several years. Responding to this shift, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced a partnership to offer free online classes to students worldwide through a joint non-profit organization. GVSU is also taking an entrepreneurial approach to online studies in graduate education. In addition to numerous online courses, we offer programs including our M.Ed. in Educational Technology and a weekend/hybrid M.S. program in Occupational Therapy. We will continue to explore the best ways to deliver course content and programs in order to better serve our students.
Funding for higher education has also changed significantly in recent years. Two factors have played a prominent role in how higher education is funded. The recent economic downturn caused many employers to eliminate support for graduate education, which was commonly provided as a benefit of employment. Substantial decreases in state and federal support for higher education have produced a generation of students who shoulder increasing education costs (and debt). For the first time in history, Americans now owe more debt on student loans than on credit cards2. Change also appears on the horizon for subsidized graduate student loans. As of July 1, 2012 graduate students must pay the interest on any loans while still in school. Interest charges will no longer be deferred until six months after graduation, which will substantially increase the already heavy financial burden on graduate students. And no end is in sight: we expect the trend for increases in educational costs to continue for the foreseeable future. If graduate programs in colleges and universities wish to continue to offer high quality degrees we must find ways to address these funding issues. One option is to work with business and industry experts to explore alternative funding mechanisms. GVSU recently initiated a partnership with local businesses and agencies to fund industry sponsored graduate assistantships. These positions provide financial support to graduate students who in turn obtain valuable experience working in the real world while completing a graduate degree program. We will continue to explore innovative and novel opportunities to financially support our graduate students.
While GVSU is working hard to provide the best educational experiences possible at an affordable cost we have also taken the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduate students and faculty. During Winter Commencement, GVSU awarded 422 master’s degrees and 44 professional doctorate degrees. Our Winter Dean’s Citation Award Ceremony honored 34 graduate students for outstanding academic performance and 8 graduate faculty members for outstanding mentorship awards. We also recently held our Graduate Showcase 2012 event at Loosemore Auditorium and Lubbers Exhibition Hall. This event highlighted the scholarly activities of 38 of our current and past graduate students and their faculty mentors.
At GVSU we remain committed to searching for ways to provide a rich and rewarding graduate education experience that will prepare our students for what lies ahead. If you have any comments or questions, please contact the Office of Graduate Studies at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeffrey A. Potteiger
Dean of Graduate Studies
1 The Sloan Consortium “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011”.
2 The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, http://www.newyorkfed.org
Page last modified May 18, 2012