Office of Graduate Studies

University of Wisconsin- La Crosse

 

Faculty Senate Charges:

 

  1. How the Office of Graduate Studies can enhance support to departmental efforts to recruit graduate students?
  2. Graduate student recruitment efforts and support relative to Plan 2008.

 

Background work:

 

UW - La Crosse has a graduate population of about 13% of its total students including those in Learning Communities. One wonders, however, how do they find out about the programs the university offers? Who are our students and why have they chosen UW – La Crosse? As the institution moves forward with Plan 2008 and Growth and Access, is there a plan to increase the number of graduate students and how will we recruit more underrepresented students and out-of-state students. Do we have adequate resources for maintaining/increasing graduate enrollments? Currently each program is responsible for the recruitment of their students; however, many programs do not know how other programs attract students to UW – La Crosse.

 

This past fall semester, Lauren Cikara, graduate assistant in the Office of Graduate Studies met with a number of graduate program directors to find out about their particular program and their recruitment efforts.  

 

The following questions were asked during these meetings:

How many students are currently in the program?

Where do the majority of the students come from?

How do students find out about the program?

What are the attractors of the program?

Does the program offer any incentives to graduate students?

What could they use more of to assist in the recruitment initiatives of their program?

 

Recruitment of graduate students is very different than the recruitment of undergraduate students. Undergraduate student recruitment relies on the captive audience from high school visits and college fairs. High school visits are scheduled in a number of states. This is the way admissions counselors are able to speak to a vast number of students about UW – La Crosse. Parents are heavily involved in this process as well and attend college fairs with their students. The Office of Admissions is responsible for all formal undergraduate student recruitment initiatives. The recruitment of graduate students is the responsibility of each graduate program at UW – La Crosse. Individual programs can select to attend graduate school fairs held on many college campuses. The Office of Graduate Studies has attended graduate school fairs in the past and this semester, representing all UW-L programs, however interest has been very minimal. There is no central recruitment support structure for recruiting graduate students except one staff member in the Office of Admissions who assists with inquiries and works as a clearing house.

 

Many of the current graduate programs rely on the same methods to attract students to their programs. Having an up-to-date website assists the recruitment process tremendously as each program can not afford to attend multiple graduate school fairs each year. Many faculty members are members of national organizations associated with their discipline. Attending national conferences and being an active member of the particular organization also is a plus when recruiting students.  Each program relies heavily on word of mouth about the quality of their program whether it is from faculty presentations during undergraduate classes or alumni members. A number of students are from Wisconsin and Minnesota; however the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) could be beneficial to each program in regard to promoting graduate programs to students in Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Kansas, and Illinois. Under MSEP, these students will pay only 150% of resident tuition fees.

 

Not surprisingly, the inadequacy of graduate student resources continues to be a main concern for each program. UW – La Crosse only offers a limited number of graduate assistantships and partial non-resident tuition waivers to its students. Many program directors feel that they can not compete with other programs as they can not offer as many resources to their students, i.e. full tuition waivers and/or graduate assistantships. Being a state institution, often departments do not know what their budget allocation for graduate students are until late in the spring semester. The campus may be missing out on securing commitment from high achieving students due to budgetary issues and lateness of allocations.

 

It is evident that each graduate program relies on the same resources when recruiting graduate students. Collaborating on recruitment efforts may be a way to target particular populations and also assist on budget constraints for each program.

 

Current Resources for Recruitment/Retention:

 

Based on the information provided by individual programs, currently UW – La Crosse has approximately 41 FTE graduate assistantships (equivalent to $870,000) shared among 124 students.

 

Total assistantships

Approx. 41 FTE

 

 

Allocation by the Office of Graduate Studies

17 FTE (in 2006-07)

 

CBA : 2 FTE

 

CSAH : 8 FTE

 

 

 

CLS : 5.5 FTE

 

1.5 FTE minority GA *

Colleges, departments/grants/external resources

Approx. 24 FTE **

 

*1 FTE was allocated using central funds and another 0.5 FTE was allocated from GRC 799. The colleges matched 1.5 FTE to offer 12 GAs at 0.33 FTE each. This was an effort to enhance the recruitment/retention efforts of Plan 2008. We hope to continue similar efforts in 2007-08 and beyond.

 

** Resources for these assistantships come from individual colleges/departments, research grants and other sources such as University Centers and Enrollment Services.

 

Non-resident tuition waivers:  The Office of Graduate Studies allocated tuition waivers to each college as follows which are handled differently by each college. Approximately 57 students received partial non-resident tuition waivers in the current year. It should be noted here that the total allocation for non-resident tuition waivers was decreased to $369,700 for 2006-07 in comparison to $432,000 in 2005-06, a reduction of about 15%.

 

College

Tuition Waiver allocation

CBA

$30,110.00

CSAH

$278,030.00

CLS

$61,560.00

 

$369,700.00

 

Departmental Recruitment Support:

 

  1. The Associate Vice Chancellor met with all program directors individually and suggested that his office would assist departments in finding funds to attend graduate fairs or visit institutions to attract and recruit underrepresented and out-of-state students.  In 2005-06, two programs took advantage of this offer. In one case, a faculty member was allocated resources to visit North Carolina and New York for recruitment and in another case, a faculty member was sponsored to attend a graduate fair in Chicago to recruit in health professions. The support was split three ways: Offices of Graduate Studies, Academic Dean and Affirmative Action/Diversity. However in 2006-07 no program has requested assistance yet.
  2. The Office of Graduate Studies maintains a website which in turn provides linkages to each graduate program. This website was revamped last year for accurately reflecting the pertinent information as well as to insure that all links worked properly. In addition, the Office of Graduate Studies continues to support the publication of Graduate Studies brochure which is sent to all prospective students.
  3. UW-La Crosse graduate programs continue to be listed in the Peterson’s guide as well as the institution maintains its membership in the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) as well as its affiliation with regional Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS). Both CGS and MAGS conferences serve to inform us about policy issues as well as national trends and strategies used in recruitment and retention of graduate students.

 

Recruitment Efforts Relative to Plan 2008:

 

In an effort to recruit and support underrepresented students under Plan 2008, the Office of Graduate Studies receives an allocation of 1 FTE for graduate assistantships. Historically, the colleges have matched it in equal amount and the Graduate Studies has allocated 6 GAs at 0.33 FTE each. In an effort to recruit/retain more students of color, the Office of Graduate Studies had committed one additional FTE which was to be matched by each college to offer an additional 6 GAs. While all 12 GAs were initially allocated to underrepresented students (new and returning), only 9 GAs were utilized using 1.5 FTE from Graduate Studies (as mentioned above) and an additional 1.5 FTE matched by the colleges. In summary, the effort under Plan 2008 was doubled in 2006-07. The Office of Graduate Studies remains firmly committed to Plan 2008 and plans to provide resources up to 2 FTE for 2007-08 to be matched equally by the colleges to offer a total of 12 GAs. In addition to Graduate Assistantships, the non-resident minority students continue to receive partial tuition waivers and other financial aid as determined by the Student Financial Aid Office. The Office of Graduate Studies had withheld $18,560 specifically for minority recruitment which was later allocated to the colleges.

 

As stated earlier, program directors were encouraged to contact the Office of Graduate Studies for resources to attend fairs and/or visit institutions to recruit students of color. The Office of Graduate Studies remains committed to this effort in partnership with the Academic Deans and the Office of Affirmative Action/Diversity.

 

Other Graduate Resources:

 

Graduate students have the opportunity to apply for Research, Service and Educational Leadership (RSEL) grants as well as Professional Travel grants. For 2006-07, the RSEL program was funded by the Academic Initiative Oversight Committee in the amount of $45,000 in addition to $15,000 made available by the offices of the Provost, Academic Deans and Graduate Studies. The overarching issue for the program is the lack of a line item budget and thus its year-to-year dependence on a variety of resources.

 

Likewise, the Professional Travel grant program is funded through an Apportionment allocation (approx. $2800 in 2006-07) which is matched by the Office of Graduate Studies in equal amounts. This is also an annual allocation and the limitation of funds does not allow funding of many worthy students.

 

We were very pleased to have one of our faculty members and his wife pledge an annual gift of $1000 for five years to be given to one or more recipients of the Graduate Thesis Awards. We hope that these types of awards in the future will boost the quality of thesis and also enhance the image of our graduate programs and make recruitment of students easier.

 

Faculty Senate Charge:

 

3. Problems faced by graduate students (for example, housing, financial support, and work life issues); compare the situation at UW-La Crosse with situations at like institutions, and recommend ways to address problems as necessary.

 

Introduction

The Student Issues Committee is comprised of the following individuals from the Graduate Council:  Tim Donahue, Gary Gilmore, Kasilingam Periyasamy, and Vijendra (VJ) Agarwal.  During the fall 2006, two major meetings were held, along with a presentation to the Graduate Council on November 10th for update and discussion purposes.

 

The following issues have emerged from the committee and Graduate Council deliberations:

 

1.  International Students:

 

(a)    A potential requirement that international students must reside on campus was explored by the committee resulting in the finding that the Office of International Education (OIE) recommends international students stay on campus, but are not required to do so. If the students choose to stay on campus, the meal plan is mandatory. OIE is currently engaged in discussions to determine if the requirement of a mandatory meal plan can be waived or relaxed.

(b)    It was recommended by the committee that there should be consistency in the messages being conveyed to international students prior to their arrival on campus. Prior to arrival of international students, OIE mails an arrival booklet (also available on their website) with pertinent information about housing, insurance, meal plan, arrival assistance, etc. In addition, all of them receive an orientation booklet upon arrival and undergo a week long orientation.

(c)     Another issue that was explored had to do with transportation for international students, particularly if needed for employment, internships, and the like.  It was recommended that program directors needed to clearly indicate to international applicants the need to plan accordingly in advance of their arrival. OIE informed us that International students are not allowed to have paid internships off campus unless they are registered with SEVIS Homeland Security. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that Graduate Program Directors refer such students to OIE for SEVIS registration.

(d)    As a work-life issue for international students, the committee learned that international students can work on campus, can work a maximum of 20 hours per week, and cannot be paid more than the maximum student hourly wages (possibly $15 per hour).  This needs to be further explored so that reasonable recommendations can be offered.

 

 

2.  Housing:

 

Housing for all graduate students represented another key issue addressed by the committee.  After discussing the matter, the committee believed that having centralized, coordinated housing information for students would be important.  It was felt that this could be accomplished through information accessed through the URL listings of general information (not recommended listings of housing opportunities), and through the assistance of the Office of Residence Life.

 

3.  Financial support:

 

A good deal of the committee’s deliberations related to various means of financial support for graduate students.  The committee reviewed the limited availability of graduate assistantships, scholarships, tuition waivers, and extraordinary payments.  There were no easy recommendations in this area, and the committee will continue to explore various options and opportunities that are possible.  As but one example, when the fringe benefit of health insurance is offered through a graduate assistantship, in those instances when a student already has health insurance, can the support be offered as a scholarship instead?  It is generally agreed that additional support for graduate assistantships and tuition waivers would be viewed as a positive.  With current support reflected by 17 FTE emanating from the Office of Graduate Studies, and another 24 FTEs based on other modes of support (colleges, departments, grants and external resources), coupled with the expansion of graduate student population, there is clearly a need for greater support.  A reduction in the non-resident tuition waiver allocation for 2006-07

($ 369,700 as opposed to $432,000 for 2005-06) was not a welcome situation. At the least, the committee recommends restoration of those allocations to the 2005-06 level.

 

4.  Program director communications:

 

Importantly, the communications from the program directors must be accurate, consistent, and up-to-date.  This also includes the need for timely updates by the directors perhaps through an updated list of frequently asked questions and program newsletters.  Additionally, those programs that have dedicated web sites can use them for easily-accessed communication channels.

 

5.  Safety:

 

The committee generally agreed that the La Crosse area is reasonably safe.  One municipal publicity document indicates that La Crosse is the 7th safest area in the region.  It is difficult to validate such information, and the perception of safety may or may not prevail depending upon one’s vantage point (e.g., campus-based compared with the municipality).  Protective Services can be of assistance with updated information and protective recommendations.

 

 

 

Summary

 

The issues discussed above constitute areas requiring further exploration by the committee and the Graduate Council.  The work accomplished during the fall 2006 Semester is considered a starting point.  In order to further assess the issues, a graduate student survey is planned in the near future. A draft survey is enclosed. The purpose of the survey is to assess graduate student perceptions, level of support, and involvement at UW-La Crosse.  The committee believes that the insights derived from such an assessment will contribute to a greater understanding of the issues, as well as necessary recommendations. In addition, the Graduate Council will undertake comparison of UW-L situation at like institutions and recommend additional measures as needed. The Associate Vice Chancellor met with three other Graduate Studies Administrators on February 5, 2007. At present we are exploring the possibility of annual meeting of UW Graduate Administrators.

 

 

 

 

Draft Survey Questions

For Graduate Students

 

Introduction: Thank you for participating in this survey. This survey will help the graduate council make decisions on various graduate student issues. 

 

(May not be able to number questions because not all questions are answered by each person)

 

Do you live on campus?

(Yes = go to on-campus questions)

(No = go to local housing question)

 

(On-Campus questions)

Which dormitory do you live in?

                (Open comment box) 

 

How do you rate on-campus housing?

        1 = Poor  2  3  4  5 = Fair  6  7  8  9 10 = excellent

 

How do you rate on-campus food meal plans?

        1 = Poor  2  3  4  5 = Fair  6  7  8  9 10 = excellent

 

(Local housing questions)

How do you rate your off-campus housing?

        1 = Poor  2  3  4  5 = Fair  6  7  8  9 10 = excellent

 

Do you have your own transportation (car or truck)?

                (Yes = next question)

                   (No = go to transportation question)

 

(Transportation question)

Does not having transportation affect your education?

                (Yes = open comment box and next question)

                   (No = next question)

 

How safe do you feel on campus?

        1 = Very Safe 2 3 4 5 = Safe 6 7 8 9 10 = Unsafe

                (After answer open comment box and next question)

How safe do you feel off campus?

        1 = Very Safe 2 3 4 5 = Safe 6 7 8 9 10 = Unsafe

                (After answer open comment box and next question)

 

Do you have…

A Graduate Assistant Position? Yes or No

On-Campus employment? (non GA) Yes or No

Off-Campus Employment? Yes or No

                (After any yes answer open Job Question)

 

(Job Question)

Does your employment ever affect your education?

                (Yes = Open comment box and next question)

                   (No = next question)

 

Rate your use level for campus facilities: 

        Frequently = 1 2 3 4 5 = Seldom 6 7 8 9 10 = Never

Academic Advising Center

Campus housing

Career Services

Counseling and Testing

Disability Resource Services

Involvement Center

Murphy Library

Office of Multicultural Student Services

Recreational Eagle Center

Strength Center

Student Activity Center

Student Association

Student Health Center

Student Support Services

                (Open comment box after last response)

 

Are you aware of the graduate awards and grants programs?  Yes or No

                   (If no, ask "Would you like more information about these programs after the survey?"  Yes or No   Yes = Open program page after survey)

 

Do you know about the Graduate Student Organization?

                  (Yes = Next question)

                   (No = Offer link to GSO web site after end of survey)

 

Have you participated in any of the meetings? Yes or No

                (Go to end of survey)

 

(Open "Do you have any other questions or concerns" comment box)

 

Thank you for your time

 

(The survey participant will now be told what to do next…"Hit save button", "Close survey" etc.)