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Graduate Education Task Force Report

Executive Summary

There is a growing need for competitively qualified graduates to answer the increasing demand in the workforce.

Jobs requiring a graduate degree are in most demand in some of the fastest growing job markets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can expect to see a 14% increase in the need for a master’s degree educated workforce between 2014 and 2024. Theincome potential for those achieving a master’s degree is on average 15% higher than for thoseonly earning a bachelor’s degree. The increased earning potential, coupled with increasedrequirements for advanced degrees in professional fields, requires Sacramento State to advancethe needs of graduate education. Recognizing the importance of graduate education to the region and our current undergraduate and graduate student population, President Nelsen assigned the Graduate Education Task Force to examine graduate education and explore the factors necessaryto enhance the graduate student experience and sustain and increase the competitiveness of ourcampus graduate programs, given that prospective students have other options available to themin the Sacramento and Northern California Regions.

Prior efforts to examine graduate education at Sacramento State include those of the 2007 Working Group on Graduate Education. The salient recommendations implemented followingthe 2007 efforts focused on governance of graduate programs and improved review of graduatecurriculum. An earlier decision resulted in not implementing many of the comprehensive recommendations from 2007. The 2016-2017 Graduate Education Task Force reiterated severalof these ideas in their own discussions and we again urge that these recommendations move forward to enhance and ensure the vitality of graduate programs on campus.

2015 Alumni Survey of Master’s Programs

In an effort to understand the perceptions graduate students held about their graduate educational experience on campus, the Graduate Education Task Force reviewed the available alumni data.In summer 2015, the campus WASC Student Success working group and the Office ofInstitutional Research developed and administered an Alumni Survey of Master’s Programs thatasked alumni about their employment status, learning outcomes, educational environment,campus experience, connection to Sacramento State, and how well they felt their Master'sprogram prepared them for success. Survey results revealed that:

  • 78% of alumni responded that a graduate degree is important to their current employer.
  • 78% of alumni responded that they were satisfied with the level of preparation theyreceived.
  • 80% of alumni responded they were likely to recommend Sacramento State.
  • 76% of alumni responded they would recommend Sac State to colleagues looking to hire.
  • 76% of Sacramento State graduate students reported that they are primarily working fulltime.

The results of the 2015 Alumni Survey of graduate students indicate support for the conclusionsearlier drawn using national data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Graduate degrees are 4important to employers in the Sacramento Region, and our alumni from graduate degree programsare willing to recommend our campus to prospective graduate students because overall, theyexperience satisfaction when reflecting upon their graduate experience here at Sacramento State.However, in focus group discussions with current graduate students, they expressed the need forgreater support and attention to the graduate student experience and support services.

Trends in Graduate Education

One of the key values that underlie the mission of Sacramento State is a commitment to studentsuccess. As a comprehensive university, our student body is comprised of undergraduates, postbaccalaureate credential and certificate seekers, and graduate students at the master’s anddoctoral levels. In the last decade, our campus has added two professional doctoral programs,and yet the undergraduate enrollment as a percentage of the total at Sacramento State hasprogressively increased, while graduate percentage of enrollment has dropped. The campusenrollment for graduate students has continued at a steady decline from 12% in 2007 to just below 7% in 2015. This overall decline is a result of the Colleges of Arts & Letters, Business Administration, Education, and Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies experiencing an average decline of about 24% in graduate student enrollment. While the graduate student enrollment in the Colleges of Engineering & Computer Science, Health & Human Services, and Natural Sciences & Mathematics increased by 11.6%, 19.8%, and 15.5%, respectively. The growth in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas appear to beconsistent with national areas of growth in the economy. However, the drastic reduction in overall campus graduate enrollment during a period when national emphasis and importance ofbachelor’s degree holders needing to earned advanced degrees is concerning.

Summary of 2016-2017 Graduate Task Force Recommendations

With the aforementioned information and context, the Graduate Education task force conductedits business in small work groups on the basis of the task force charge: Graduate Student Academic Experiences; Graduate Student Community and Supports; Faculty Resources, Budget Allocation, and Finances; and Preparation for Workforce and Post-Graduate Education. The following summaries compile 30 recommendations from each of the work groups and the taskforce as a whole.

Graduate Student Academic Experiences

This work group considered factors that contribute to or threaten academic success in graduate studies, including resources, roadblocks and the availability of mentorship. We considered curricular and programmatic innovations that would improve timely graduation. We also discussed ideas for funding packages for graduate students and modifications to policies andprocedures to address perceived barriers.

  1. Increase options for blended BA/BS-to-MA/MS programs
  2. Increase options for MSW-MPH dual degree programs (e.g., MSW-MPH)
  3. Increased options for (practice, leadership) doctoral education
  4. Formalize mechanisms for financial support for Teaching Associate and Graduate Assistant positions (e.g., tuition waivers, academic student employment)
  5. Increase funding support for graduate education (e.g., dedicated graduate student writing studio, expanded support for graduate student research, child care availability, housing availability for traditional graduate students, online degree programs, non-traditional course offerings such as weekend programs)
  6. Provide better institutional clarity about options, pathways, advising needs, and expectations for the culminating experience, i.e., the independent thesis/project, seminar based thesis/capstone project, or final comprehensive exam.
  7. Provide stable support for academic journals and other library resources required for graduate student research
  8. Provide additional staffing resources for the Office of Graduate Studies to accommodate student requests for changing the filing deadlines for advancing to candidacy andapplying for graduation.

Graduate Student Community & Supports

The topic of student community and supports refers to the extent to which graduate students feela part of the larger campus life; feel that their unique needs are sufficiently addressed andsupported by campus infrastructure, services, and procedures; and are acknowledged for the vitalrole that they play in delivering the mission of the university.

  1. Create and expand dedicated space for active engagement, such as graduatestudy/collaborative/lounge spaces with special attention to this as new buildings are built. Hold collaborative events, such as thesis and doctoral workshops, in such spaces thatfacilitate graduate student interaction.
  2.  Create a university graduate writing studio and maintain graduate writing tutors.
  3.  Expand on-campus work opportunities for graduate students, which will reduce the needfor off-campus work and increase the amount of time spent on campus. Consider linkingwork opportunities to admissions offers to strengthen recruitment efforts.
  4. Expand business hours for campus resources needed by graduate students and provideonline access if in-person services are not possible.
  5. Improve and update communication modalities and strategies affecting graduate students.
  6. Increase visibility and participation in the Graduate Student Advisory Council and its events.
  7. Strengthen efforts to generate a campus climate of inclusivity and equity for a diverserange of students within our graduate programs.
  8. Expand graduate student community into the Sacramento region through communityconnections, internships, and future career opportunities.

Faculty Resources, Budget Allocations & Finances

Support for graduate student success clearly requires substantial effort by faculty who teach, mentor, and supervise graduate students. Faculty and other supports require adequate fundingand successful, equitable models for budget allocation.

  1. Provide release time for supervising graduate teaching and research, supervising thesis projects, coordinating (chairing) graduate programs, as well as conducting graduate experiences.
  2. Develop clearer policy and protocol around institutional support for teaching loads at the graduate level.
  3. Provide options for faculty to be able to contract with their department to reduce their teaching load by one or two courses, contingent upon scholarly work.
  4. Recognize that graduate instruction is not the same as undergraduate instruction for the purpose of FTES calculation and assignment of WTU.
  5. Strengthen efforts to hire diverse faculty for graduate programs.
  6. Increase public relations/public affairs efforts to feature accomplishments of graduate alumni.
  7. Request that Academic Affairs explore alternate budget and funding models for graduate education that would result in minimum floors for graduate programs across campus.
  8. Re-examine formulas for calculating FTES and assigning WTUs to graduate levelcourses.

Preparation for Workforce & Post-Graduate Education

This work group examined local and national workforce needs and generated ideas for how ourgraduate programs can expand to meet labor market trends and provide practical workexperience. To do so in a manner that allows for timely degree completion requires programinnovations, financial supports, and community partnerships.

  1. Determine efficient program timelines that provide graduate educational experiences needed by the specific career paths relevant to the field of study.
  2. Create blended programs that expedite time to graduate degrees, which should also include opportunities for practical application through fieldwork, internships, and research.
  3. Increase grants, scholarships, and paid internships for graduate students in order to decrease time to degree. Expand our philanthropic efforts to encompass graduate student needs.
  4. Develop new graduate program proposals that respond to gaps in existing degree programs that could meet increasing industry demands.
  5. Develop online and hybrid program options that would support timely degree progress of working students and those with extensive financial responsibilities.
  6. Collaborate with community partners to provide students with opportunities to network within their career fields, enhance career opportunities, and enhance their learningthrough various college-community partnerships and events.

Conclusion

Graduate education provides a remarkable opportunity for supporting the region with a workforce equipped with advanced knowledge and specialized talents and abilities. As a large comprehensive university, Sacramento State has a commitment to the region to fulfill its undergraduate teaching obligations; however, these commitments to service and undergraduate teaching cannot be met without the cultivation of excellence in faculty research and graduate education. By strengthening the research and graduate education components of the campus, we can strengthen the undergraduate teaching and service levels on campus. The recommendations in this report offer a strategic framework for the university to make investments in graduate education. This framework follows the work of the President’s Graduate Education Task Force. It supports the goals and mission of Sacramento State, and calls for a greater campus coordinated effort to invest in graduate education for the benefit of both undergraduate and graduate students.

The recommendations will serve as the foundation for the campus investment in graduate education over the next 3 to 5 years. By focusing not only on the operational needs of graduate student services but also on the faculty research and support for graduate education, we can build a stronger graduate student community, and provide faculty with the resources to support graduate student success, design innovative graduate curriculum, and engage in disciplinary scholarly andcreative activities. As we work to implement the recommendations outlined in this report, the Task Force recommends the continuation of campus discussions to further engage the campus community in developing a shared commitment to graduate education on our campus and improving the graduate student experience.

Introduction

In 2016, President Nelsen called for a Task Force to examine graduate education and explore the factors necessary to sustain and increase the competitiveness in our campus graduate programs, given that prospective students have other options available to them in the Sacramento and Northern California Regions.

Changing demographics, reforms in federal financial aid regulations, and increasing competition for students, both domestic and international, are several trends and areas of vulnerability for graduate education on our campus and nationally. Attending graduate school must be a viable option for more bachelor’s degree holders, and we must ensure that those who enter graduate school have the support and opportunities they need to succeed in earning a graduate degree. The major goal of the task force’s efforts was to offer recommendations to improve the future of graduate education on our campus. Throughout its work, the task force paid close attention to President Nelsen’s four imperatives first announced in spring of 2016: ensuring timely graduation; increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity in our student body; increasing philanthropic gifts in support of our campus initiatives, and working to build community collaboration in an effort to improve the health of our community.

A Comprehensive & Cohesive System for Graduate Education

Graduate education in California has grown significantly since 1946, when the California State Legislature first authorized the CSU to offer a post-baccalaureate program in teacher education. Now, in the 21st Century, the CSU is one of the primary providers of graduate education in the state. The CSU grants one-third of the master’s degrees awarded in the state of California. Over 50,000 graduate students study at 23 CSU campuses, offering graduate degree and certificate programs, including terminal degrees in education, nursing, and physical therapy.

At Sacramento State, in 1995, we partnered with UC Santa Barbara to offer a joint Ph.D. in Public History, and in 2003, our campus joined a consortium with UC Davis and Sonoma State to offer a joint doctoral degree in Education, focusing on leadership and policy studies. In 2005, state legislature authorized the CSU to offer independently the Ed.D. In 2007, Sacramento State received final approval from the senior commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges to offer the Ed.D. in Education Leadership for P-12 and community college. In 2010, Assembly Bill 2382 allowed the CSU the authority to award the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, and Assembly Bill 867 sanctioned the CSU to offer the Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to prepare nursing faculty for the CSU and community college nursing programs. The Sacramento State faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy celebrated with the inaugural class when the students earned their doctoral degree in the summer of 2015.

With the passage of Assembly Bill 2317 in 2016, the CSU was authorized to award Doctors of Audiology degrees, and the Sacramento State faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders are designing curriculum for consideration to offer this graduate program. A dedicated group of faculty at Sacramento State continue to demonstrate their commitment to providing quality graduate education in the region. Clearly there has been, and continues to be, an interest in growing and developing graduate education on the campus. The questions surround the resources and support to fully develop and support these endeavors.

2007 Working Group on Graduate Education

In 2007, Academic Affairs called for a working group to explore graduate education on campus. The outcome was the development of the current governance structure for the campus that provides policy and procedures related to graduate education. The recommendations implemented to date are the inclusion of graduate programs in the Program Review process, establishment of a Dean of Graduate Studies, a Graduate Advisory Council, and a Graduate Studies Policies Committee. The established governance structure led to the creation of policies related to graduate curriculum and academic standards: Institutional Graduate Learning Goals, credit hour guidelines for graduate courses, Graduate Academic Renewal, and guidelines for honoring graduate students who complete their degree programs with distinction.

The Working Group also recommended ongoing campus discussions to better define and establish a vision for graduate education on our campus and approve its visibility. Unfortunately, momentum for these efforts has waned in recent years, perhaps because of the Great Recession, the launch of other major initiatives, and decisions to preserve and direct available resources predominantly toward undergraduate education as a strategy to address the growing need for baccalaureate candidates. Thus, work remains to highlight the benefits and contributions of graduate education, making the graduate student contributions to the CSU more visible to the campus and community. These benefits include contributions of teaching and being research assistants to the education and mentoring of our undergraduates, and it extends to the contributions of graduates from our graduate programs to the professional and leadership ranks in our community.

The Working Group report also called on the campus to identify a clear goal for the balance between undergraduate and graduate enrollment (including international student enrollment), increase diversity of graduate students and faculty that teach in graduate programs, track alumni from graduate programs, and provide graduate students with better career services. While the campus established an enrollment policy which set a goal that 10% of the student population would be graduate students at the master’s and doctoral level, the campus enrollment for graduate students has continued at a steady decline from 12% in 2007 to just below 7% in 2015.

The needle has moved the least in the area of resources for graduate students and programs, such as tuition waivers and faculty workload credit for supervising graduate students, not supported equally across graduate programs on our campus.

While the importance of graduate education is generally understood and the development of a cohesive governance structure is appreciated, in financially constrained times the campus community needs to have a dedicated exploration of the necessary resources needed to build a vibrant graduate culture that embodies an effervescent and engaging experience for graduate students. Many of the 2007 Working Group recommendations were not fully implemented and should be reconsidered. Several of these issues were raised again by the current task force, indicated in the list below:

Vision

  • Recommend campus dialog on the importance of research and ways to build a collaborative and energized graduate student and faculty research environment. Recommend departments assess their comparative advantages and disadvantages to other academic institutions in graduate course curriculum, offerings, and modes of delivery.
  • Encourage academic departments to respond to the need for graduate student diversity in programs on our campus. The presence of students from diverse backgrounds and experience adds to the richness of the graduate experience and exchange of ideas in a region such as Sacramento.

Resources

  • Recommend the Faculty Senate, Provost and deans, in conjunction with the department chairs and faculty members teaching at the graduate level, explore workload issues related to graduate education, including avenues to achieve fair and equitable compensation for faculty work related to theses, projects and dissertation advising and supervision.
  • Recommend sufficient funding for graduate student support services, such as advising, writing workshops, student research funding, etc.
  • Recommend that the discussion of graduate education resources be elevated to include the contributions of graduate degree programs to the university community. Recommend faculty development funds to support faculty research related to support for graduate education.
  • Recommend equitable budgetary allocation for the Office of Graduate Studies and oversight of the equitable allocations by the Graduate Dean. Recommend the restoration of library resources in support of graduate education.

Graduate Student Support

  • Recommend the development of a comprehensive thesis/project/dissertation advising policy to assist students in obtaining timely degree completion.
  • Recommend adequate funding for the Writing Center to conduct Thesis/Project/Dissertation Writing workshops, offer tutoring to graduate students, and to assist students in reviewing research writing.
  • Recommend the Faculty Senate and Academic Affairs investigate the costs and feasibility of offering fee waivers for Teaching Associates (six units or more of teaching).
  • Recommend the establishment of a tracking system for alumni. This would include a database of graduates and a communication system.
  • Recommend a career services component be developed for graduate students to allow professional placements for graduates.

These recommendations reflect the expansive reach of graduate programming, and remain integral aspects for the campus community to consider. Our efforts are to ensure student success extends beyond the experience of undergraduate students to include our graduate and credential students, as well. By adopting an inclusive vision of student success to include graduate students, the campus can expand and enhance the experience of all students. The enrichment of undergraduate students’ experiences occur when they recognize the potential to continue their education and increase the depth of their understanding in a discipline through studies at the graduate level. The corridor to greater earning potential and broader representation of low-income, first generation, and historically underserved population students begins with an investment in graduate education.

2015 Alumni Survey of Master’s Programs

In summer 2015, the campus WASC (now known as WSCUC) Student Success working group and the Office of Institutional Research developed and administered an Alumni Survey of Master’s Programs in an effort to collect information regarding the quality and outcomes of graduate education at Sacramento State. The survey asked alumni about their employment status, learning outcomes, educational environment, campus experience, connection to Sacramento State, and how well they felt their Master's program prepared them for success.

The survey sample included alumni who graduated with a master's degree 1 to 5 years ago. Survey questionnaires (N=4,896) were distributed via email and/or postcards and 836 were returned for an overall response rate of 17%. A review of respondent characteristics showed that 23% of them were first generation college students, 16% were underrepresented minorities, 51% are between 25 and 34 years of age, and 67% currently reside in the Sacramento region.

Respondents reported on their employment status to be primarily full-time (76%), with 3% currently looking for work. Interestingly, the survey revealed that the majority of alumni (62%) were employed in the public sector and 35% worked in educational services.

According to the survey results, the top six highest rated Learning Outcomes/Core Competences were Critical thinking (90%), The ability to apply knowledge to new situation or problem (90%), The ability to integrate or connect ideas or information (88%), Information literacy and research skills (88%), Effective writing (86%), and Problem-solving (85%). The top five aspects of Campus Experiences with the highest rates of satisfaction were Overall academic experience (86%), Overall experience in the major (85%), Quality of education (82%), Quality of faculty instruction (81%), and Access to faculty outside of class (80%).

When asked “How important to your current employer is your graduate degree,” 76% of alumni responded “very important" or "somewhat important” and 78% said that they were satisfied with the level of preparation they received from their graduate programs “in relation to succeeding in the world after college.” When asked, “How likely are you going to recommend Sacramento State?” 80% of alumni across the colleges stated that they were “very likely” or “likely” to recommend Sac State to colleagues looking to hire employees; 76% stated that they were “very likely” or “likely” to recommend Sac State to prospective graduate students.

The results of the 2015 Alumni Survey indicate that graduate degrees are important to employers in the Sacramento Region (of which the public sector is the most prominent), and our alumni from graduate degree programs are willing to recommend our campus to prospective graduate students because overall, they experience satisfaction when reflecting upon their graduate experience here at Sacramento State. However, in focus group discussions with current graduate students, they expressed the need for greater support and attention to the graduate student experience and support services.

2016 WSCUC (“WASC”) Report & Graduate Learning Goals

The 2016 WSCUC (“WASC”) Report (p. 17) addressed progress and goals for graduate education and learning. The report summarizes the general expectations of the graduate learning experience as follows: Students in graduate programs are expected to demonstrate a deeper level of learning in a specific content area; to develop intellectual and practical skills to an advanced level; to move from being consumers of knowledge to being producers and disseminators of knowledge; to strengthen professional identity; to be metacognitive, curious, and responsible; and to develop leadership skills and the ability to function autonomously.

Towards this end, the Graduate Learning Goals policy, recently revised in 2015-2016, requires graduate programs to define their own set of learning outcomes, create a curriculum map of program learning outcomes (PLOs) onto specific courses, develop a plan for PLO assessment, and submit annual assessment reports that include action steps for maintenance and improvement of program quality.

Institutional Graduate Learning Goals for Masters Programs

  1. Disciplinary knowledge: Master, integrate, and apply disciplinary knowledge and skills to current, practical, and important contexts and situations.
  2. Communication: Communicate key knowledge with clarity and purpose both within the discipline and in broader contexts.
  3. Critical thinking/analysis: Demonstrate the ability to be creative, analytical, and critical thinkers.
  4. Information literacy: Demonstrate the ability to obtain, assess, and analyze information from a myriad of sources.
  5. Professionalism: Demonstrate an understanding of professional integrity.
  6. Intercultural/Global Perspectives: Demonstrate relevant knowledge and application of intercultural and/or global perspectives.

Institutional Graduate Learning Goals for Doctoral Programs

Institutional Graduate Learning Goals for Masters Programs, with the addition of:

  1. Research: Conduct independent research resulting in an original contribution to knowledge in the focused areas of their graduate program.

The Graduate Learning Goals policy also requires graduate programs to develop Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) that represent their unique perspectives and which demonstrate achievement of the institutional (ILOs) Graduate Learning Goals. Each graduate program shall define its own set of learning outcomes, specific to the level of study and to the discipline, that are more advanced in content than those defined for related undergraduate work. The program outcomes form the basis for assessment plans within graduate programs and offer foci for future academic program review teams.

Program Learning Outcomes are designed with the goal of placing graduated master's or doctoral students into post-degree positions in secondary education, non-profits, business and consulting, government and private agencies, and other fields that draw on the knowledge and skills of graduates in the focused areas of their degree preparation. Each graduate program has a curriculum map that includes a listing of all courses, both required and elective, as well as other required graduate education activities. The programs indicate the addressing in the curriculum of each PLO through a curriculum map.

Following the approval of the institutional graduate learning goals, the WASC Student Success working group and the Office of Graduate Studies undertook an effort to collect and assess evidence related to the institutional graduate learning outcomes at Sac State. Subsets of the institutional goals (communication [written], critical thinking, and information literacy) were initially assessed using fall 2015 Graduate Writing Intensive (GWI) papers. In fall 2016, the group collected a selection of GWI papers from academic departments, as well as samples of projects and theses. The faculty reviewers used rubrics approved by the Graduate Studies Policies Committee (GSPC) and the WASC Student Success working group.

Each document type was compared for each of the graduate learning goals identified in the assessment report (i.e., writing, critical thinking, and information literacy). Using the GSPC Proposed Rubric for Graduate GWAR Policy, the interpretation of the scores is as follows:

  • Purpose: A score of 3 indicates that the writer is clear in terms of the academic genre and it is followed pretty closely. There is either no innovation within the genre or it is not effective. The writer is also aware of the intended audience. A score of 4 indicates that the writer consistently follows an academic genre and any innovation within the genre is deliberate and effective.
  • Disciplinary Knowledge: A score of 3 indicates that the writer uses concepts and theories effectively and generalizations are consistently supported with examples and findings from  the discipline. Specific cases may also be interpreted with disciplinary concepts and theories. A score of 4 indicates that the writer uses a well-organized network of concepts, perspectives, findings and examples that are clearly visible to the reader.
  • Disciplinary Modes of Synthesis and Analysis: A score of 2 indicates that the writer employs disciplinary methods and modes of thinking in a superficial way whereas a score of 3 indicates that the writer accurately employs methods and modes of thinking to construct knowledge in the discipline.
  • Style & Format: A score of 2 indicates that the writer broadly follows disciplinary style and format with logic gaps and weak transitions whereas a score of 3 indicates that the writer consistently follows disciplinary conventions contributing to the comprehensibility of the writing sample even with minor errors.
  • Mechanics: A score of 2 indicates that the writer inconsistently uses grammatical conventions with improper use of headings whereas a score of 3 indicates that the writer follows normal grammatical conventions (with minor errors) and employs effective organizational structure. The average scores for each component appear in the graphs that follow:

In terms of writing scores (see table above), thesis scores were consistently higher than GWI papers and project scores. Project scores were consistently lower than thesis and GWI paper scores. For the other measures, critical thinking and information literacy, thesis scores were consistently higher than GWI paper and project scores. Project scores were consistently lower than thesis and GWI paper scores. The results indicate a need to continue reviewing the rubrics and for programs to continue assessing their program learning goals.

Trends in Graduate Education at Sacramento State

Twenty years ago, the graduate student population was almost 14% and credential enrollment was at 3% of the campus enrollment. Graduate and professional students accounted for nearly 17% of the student population. Today, graduate and professional students comprise approximately 8% of the campus enrollment. More recent trends in graduate enrollment show that it has decreased by almost 50% from 5,105 in 2007 to 2,643 in 2015, while undergraduate enrollment has increased from 23,724 in 2007 to 27,641 in 2015. During this same period, the campus enrollment grew from 28,829 in 2007 to 30,284 in 2015. The growth was entirely in the undergraduate population, as credentials declined during this period from 856 in 2007 to 326 in 2015. Comparisons of Fall 2012 and Fall 2016 data indicate that graduate student enrollment has declined by an average of about 24% in the Colleges of Arts & Letters, Business Administration, Education, and Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Colleges of Engineering & Computer Science, Health & Human Services, and Natural Sciences & Mathematics, however, experienced increases of 11.6%, 19.8%, and 15.5%, respectively. Currently, the five largest graduate programs in terms of enrollment are Teacher Education (15%), Social Work (9.7%), Electrical and Electronic Engineering (4%), Nursing (4.4%), and School Counseling (4.1%). Currently, graduate students form 8.5% of our total student body at Sacramento State.

Source: CSUS Office of Institutional Research

Sacramento State alumni comprise the largest population of our graduate students (50% of firsttime graduate students). Outside of Sacramento, Placer, and Yolo Counties, the Foothills, Bay Area, and certain foreign countries provide significant numbers of graduate students. Our graduate students are, on average, 65.4% female and are 5-7 years older than our undergraduates (mean age of 30). International students comprise 8.9% of all graduate students and 25.8% identify as underrepresented minority (4.4% African American, <1% American Indian, <1% Pacific Islander, 20.6% Latino). Nearly all students live off campus and about 62% of them enroll full-time, with an average unit load of 10.4 units.

The long-term trend for distribution of Sacramento State graduate degrees by college of major shows that the highest percentages come from the colleges of Education, Health and Human Services, and Business Administration. These figures are consistent with projected labor market growth in California in which fastest growth areas are educational services, health care, social assistance, and professional and business services (described in more detail in the Workforce section, below). From the data we know that the master’s degree is the fastest and largest segment of the graduate education sector. There is a shift to programs that will prepare students in the professions of business, education, and public health, and there is a rise in the professional master’s degree programs that combine advanced discipline specific course work with embedded workplace skills and experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we can expect to see a 14% increase requirement’s for master’s degree educated workforce between 2014 and 2024.

With all of the efforts being focused in improving the students’ success at the undergraduate level, it is important that we recognize the need for support and preparation for the students’ needs for advanced degrees to meet the changing demands for workforce entry and advancement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment (Modified December 2015), the income potential for those achieving a master’s degree is on average 15% higher than for those only earning a bachelor’s degree. The increased earning potential, coupled with increased requirements for advanced degrees in professional fields, requires comprehensive universities, such as Sacramento State, to advance the needs of graduate education to fulfill their mission of transforming lives. Source: CSUS Office of Institutional Research

Task Force Charge, Composition & Process

The 2017 Graduate Education Task Force was established to make recommendations on how we can improve the overall experience of prospective and current graduate students at Sacramento State. We believe the graduate student experience encompasses all aspects of graduate education, including but not limited to:

  • Graduate academic experiences: Do graduate students feel they have the resources to succeed? What are the challenges and roadblocks that they experience? Do our students feel they are receiving adequate mentorship?
  • Graduate student community: Do graduate students feel a part of this campus? How do graduate assistants, teaching associates, and instructional student assistants perceive their role in delivering the mission of the university?
  • Adequate support for faculty involved in graduate education on campus: In what ways can the campus support faculty in shaping the graduate student experience? Do faculty feel they have the resources they need to support quality graduate education?
  • Workforce and post-graduate education: What are the benefits of graduate education to the Sacramento region, the state, and beyond? How can course programming and degree offerings expand to meet the regional workforce needs?

The Task Force on Graduate Education had the task of framing the issues related to the graduate experience, taking into account the President’s four imperatives (timely graduation, diversity/inclusion/equity, community collaboration, and philanthropy) and writing a report with recommendations to strengthen the support for graduate education at Sacramento State. The membership of the Task Force on Graduate Education required the following seats:

  • A chair or graduate coordinator from and chosen by each of the seven colleges
  • A representative chosen by the Library faculty
  • A representative from the College of Continuing Education
  • Two representatives from the Faculty Senate and chosen by the Senate Chair
  • A graduate student representative from ASI and chosen by the ASI Graduate Director
  • A graduate student representative from the Graduate Student Advisory Council
  • A staff representative from the University Staff Assembly

The task force met on a bi-monthly basis from December 2016 through April 2017. The members formed small work groups on the basis of the charge: Graduate Student Academic Experiences; Graduate Student Community; Faculty Resources, Budget Allocation, and Finances; and Preparation for Workforce and Post-Graduate Education. Selected members of the task force continued working in fall 2017 to draft the report and consult with various stakeholder groups, particularly continuing graduate students and staff involved with delivering graduate degree services. The following sections report on the discussions and recommendations from the work groups and the task force as a whole.

Graduate Student Academic Experiences

The 2015 Alumni Survey of Master’s Programs indicates that 86% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall academic experience in their graduate programs. The top rated (85% or higher) areas of knowledge and proficiencies developed within their programs were critical thinking, applying knowledge to new situations or problems, integrating or connecting ideas or information, information literacy and research skills, effective writing, and problemsolving. The lowest rated (below 79%) were teamwork, intercultural knowledge and competence, understanding and using quantitative information, and civic knowledge and engagement.

Students were satisfied with the quality of instruction they received from faculty (81%), but fewer students were satisfied with opportunities for research and creative projects (61%) and availability of educational enrichment programs, such as internships and study abroad (47%).

In March of 2017, graduate coordinators (N=11) gave their opinions on student academic experiences in small group discussions held at a graduate coordinator’s meeting. Participants addressed resources that students need to succeed academically as well as challenges and roadblocks that students face. Graduate coordinators felt that student academic experiences would be improved with more support for faculty for teaching, advising, thesis supervision, and mentoring of graduate students. Support for graduate coordinators (i.e., release time) and support staff dedicated to assisting graduate students were also recommended. Better access to writing  supports, journal access, lab/office space, parking, and campus services are needed, as are financial supports through scholarships, financial aid, teaching assistantships, and graduate assistantships. The graduate coordinators recommended that communication with graduate students should be improved in order for them to get information effectively and efficiently. Similarly, required processes, procedures, and deadlines should be re-examined to reduce the extent to which they act as roadblocks to graduate student progress.

The task force arrived at additional conclusions and recommendations that would improve graduate students’ academic experience at Sacramento State. First is the need for more program options, particularly undergraduate-to-graduate blended programs, pathways to dual degrees, and fast track programs for career/research development. We might also consider offering different formats of post-graduate credentials, such as certificates and diplomas, for graduate credit to our undergraduate alumni. Such credentials could be “stacked” or credits “banked” towards a graduate degree. In addition, the delivery of graduate credentials in compressed scheduling (Fridays/weekends) and hybrid formats should also be considered. These options would help our campus recruit our own students, be more appealing to students in older age groups, attract more students externally, and remain competitive with other local universities that are developing these types of programs. The university approved a policy on Blended Baccalaureate and Masters Programs in 2016 and we currently have one blended BS/MS program in Mechanical Engineering.

There is also market value for dual advanced degrees and/or interdisciplinary training, which is an increasingly common practice in other universities. For example, the College of Business Administration had a concurrent MBA and JD program (with University of the Pacific) and a concurrent MS in Accountancy with an MBA. Additional dual programs may be a good fit for our campus (with or without collaboration with other universities), such as a dual MSW and MPH program, or programs joining with political science, public affairs/policy or with business administration. Similarly, disciplines can offer specialized areas of knowledge and practice that other degree-granting programs do not have. For example, many degree programs in Health and Human Services could collaborate well with Communication Studies, Sociology, Psychology, or Public Affairs, at the very least by allowing interdisciplinary electives. Likewise, those disciplines may find particular strengths in health and human services courses regarding behavioral/health policy and macro/community practice and research.

Finally, with the increase in avenues for professional practice doctoral degree programs in the CSU system, it is worthwhile to explore how this advanced education, leadership, and practice may be furthered in other disciplines -- and/or in collaboration with UC Davis. For example, another emerging professional practice doctorate across the nation is the Doctorate in Social Work (DSW); or, there might be an innovative pathway between the Ph.D. in Nursing at UC Davis and degree programs in the College of Health and Human Services. Additional ideas for expansion of professional master’s and doctoral degree graduate programs, which would appeal to alumni and support their further education, include: public administration, biotechnology, public health, human resource management, project management, public policy, public relations, applied statistics, actuarial science, bioethics, negotiation and conflict resolution, nonprofit management, and sustainability management.

Second, the academic experience of graduate students would be improved by formalized mechanisms that are institutionally supported (i.e., tuition waivers, courses and labs on teaching and research) for students to gain teaching, research, and other academic experiences through teaching associate (TA) positions and graduate research assistantships (GA). Over the past three (3) academic years, we have averaged about 107 GA and TA employees each semester, which is approximately 4.5% of our typical graduate student population. Changes to the UAW Collective Bargaining Agreement (Unit 11) pertaining to TAs and GAs may negatively affect these numbers due to the shift from unit-based to hourly rates of compensation, which usually results in higher costs for instruction and other work. In addition, graduate students desire funding packages that include professional development and opportunities to engage with faculty in research endeavors that strengthen the culture of inquiry for both undergraduate and graduate students.

The Office of Graduate Studies should administer graduate student fellowship funds. The tuition waiver funds should be held by the university budget office and be administered by the Graduate School. The University Advancement Office, in collaboration with the academic college deans, should set a goal to allocate funds to support up to 100 graduate students for fellowships and support; this would allow the majority of the TA and GA positions to have support. This investment would increase the competitiveness of our graduate degree programs, and raise the profile of graduate education at Sacramento State. A campaign should be designed to increase the amount of funding support available for graduate student fellowships. Fellowships shall normally be a 2-3-year commitment. Travel and culminating experience fellowships shall also be administered by the Office of Graduate Studies, as fundraising efforts allow for awards. Third, options for the culminating experience for graduate students should be re-examined given that departments offer various options to fulfill this requirement. To our knowledge, the university does not track the numbers of students completing each option, the average semesters it takes to complete each option, and how each option relates to student learning outcomes is recently being assessed with the implementation of the institutional graduate learning goals. Possibly, a clearer institutionalization of valid pathways to completing this important graduate milestone could be:

  1. A traditional original research project (i.e., thesis);
  2. A seminar-based, year-long advanced research methods sequence that culminates in a formal research report (e.g., “capstone project”); or
  3. A comprehensive mixed-methods examination that could be prepared for in an integrative seminar or be prepared independently by the student though proctored on a specific date at the end of the final year.

The rationale and expectations for each option should be clearly laid out for students in terms of what are industry and post-masters standards, timelines for completion, and what constitutes an acceptable product. Although the culminating experience may be the most important aspect of a graduate student’s academic experience, faculty compensation for thesis/project supervision is inconsistent across programs, with many faculty providing supervision as an overload or in other ways remaining inadequately compensated. We address this issue in detail in the Faculty Resources and Finances and Resources sections, below, but it is mentioned here because of its likely effects on the quality of the student academic experience and timely completion of the degree.

In addition to these largely structural supports, graduate student academic experiences would be better supported with stable financial support for journals and other academic resources required for them to accomplish their scholarly goals. Due to reductions to the library budgetary resources during the Great Recession, there was a sharp decline in the ability of the library to fulfill the requests for research materials to support faculty and student research. Faculty who instruct and inspire our students require support for academic resources as well, which are needed to lead an active research agenda necessary to build an instructional environment that supports graduate education.

A final recommendation of the work group is to consider carefully the University deadlines that may act as administrative barriers towards students’ progression towards degree completion. One recurring problem experienced by graduate coordinators and students is the university deadline set for degree services, such as advancement to candidacy and the application to graduate. These deadlines were set, in consultation with the Graduate Coordinators after careful consideration of the available resources to provide service to students. Students and faculty advisors desire more flexibility surrounding these deadlines. The suggestion to create an earlier internal (program) deadline at the end of the fall semester to help students and their advisors prepare for the deadlines has not been widely adopted. Additional graduate studies staff members would need to be hired in order to accommodate deadline flexibilities because of the workload demands and disruption of other business processes that would accrue as a result adopting flexible deadlines for degree services.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Increase options for blended BA/BS-to-MA/MS programs
  2. Increase options for MSW-MPH dual degree programs (e.g., MSW-MPH)
  3.  Increase options for (practice, leadership) doctoral education
  4. Formalize mechanisms for financial support for Teaching Associate and Graduate Assistant positions (e.g., tuition waivers, academic student employment)
  5. Increase funding support for graduate education (e.g., dedicated graduate student writing studio, expanded support for graduate student research, child care availability, housing availability for traditional graduate students, online degree programs, non-traditional course offerings such as weekend programs)
  6. Provide better institutional clarity about options, pathways, advising needs, and expectations for the culminating experience, i.e., the independent thesis/project, seminarbased thesis/capstone project, or final comprehensive exam.
  7. Provide stable support for academic journals and other library resources required for graduate student research
  8. Provide additional staffing resources for the Office of Graduate Studies to accommodate student requests for changing the filing deadlines for advancing to candidacy and applying for graduation.

Graduate Student Community and Supports

The topic of student community refers to the extent to which graduate students feel a part of the larger campus life; feel that their unique needs are sufficiently addressed and supported by campus infrastructure, services, and procedures; and are acknowledged for the vital role that they play in delivering the mission of the university. Students’ positive community experience at Sacramento State impacts their timely and successful progress towards their degree by providing appropriate resources and supports, communicating important deadlines and information, reducing barriers, and enhancing academic and employment success through co-curricular experiences. The Student Community task force work group and the graduate coordinators discussion groups identified several areas for recommendations pertaining to enhancing graduate students’ experience of Sacramento State as a community, focusing on Campus infrastructure, resources, and supports to enhance graduate student community.

As it stands, graduate and professional programs are often isolated from one another. Although a relatively standard phenomenon among graduate programs, this normally creates barriers against inter-department collaboration and interdisciplinary knowledge. Some programs have begun to work with one another in order to provide a richer educational experience for graduate students.

To build a student community, graduate students need to have resources and physical spaces dedicated to them and developed for their unique needs.

As new buildings and physical spaces are planned and created on campus, special attention is needed to spaces for graduate students to gather, connect, study, collaborate, and pursue scholarly and creative activity. Students may feel isolated in their departments, especially when they are finished with their classes. Such spaces should be available for students within their departments, as it is important for them to create community within their own programs. In fact, many students would put this is as a priority, as networking with students and faculty within their own program may be to their best advantage. However, connecting with others across programs would be of benefit as well. Graduate students may feel that Sacramento State is a “commuter campus” (even more so than undergraduates) and expect less connection.

Writing in their disciplines is a primary task for graduate students; however, writing support specifically geared towards graduate students is not available on our campus in any systematic or broad-reaching way. Therefore, we recommend creation of a graduate writing studio or support center that maintains graduate writing tutors at a ratio that would adequately meet the needs of graduate students; perhaps 3-4 tutors would suffice for a start. Graduate coordinators expressed a desire for such a studio to focus on formal writing mechanics for incoming graduate students, particularly those who may be returning to the university after some time in the workforce. This studio or center should also accommodate the diversity of writing styles found in different graduate programs and would also need to accommodate the schedules of graduate students by being available outside of regular business hours (e.g., evenings) and include “virtual” writing labs as well as in-person options. The writing studio or center could hold writing workshops; coordinate a writing partners program for culminating experience students; and host virtual talks related to academic inquiry to assist in developing a stronger culture of inquiry for graduate students. Such a writing studio or center would also alleviate faculty supervisory workload, as they would not have to spend so much time improving the general writing skills of their students.

An alternative to creation of a separate graduate studio or center is to expand the accessibility and services of our University Reading & Writing Center (URWC) to include graduate level writing support. As it stands, the URWC’s website indicates that it is oriented towards assisting undergraduate and graduate students in their writing process. Although this may be the intent, the tutors that are hired are required to have taken ENGL 195A/410A (the URWC’s internship course) and its corresponding pre-requisite (ENGL 20, ENGL 120, or a writing intensive). Thus, those who would be providing assistance to graduate students would be undergraduates or current graduate students who have passed a writing intensive course. We hear from our students of severe understaffing at the Center and it being not particularly well equipped to handle graduate-level inquiries. This is inherently problematic in that the writing support needs of undergraduate students are distinctly different than those of graduate students (e.g., academic research and thesis writing) and the majority of the current staff at the URWC may lack the training and experience to assist graduate students, especially those who are advanced in their programs. These problems, however, could be mitigated if there were a staff person available at the URWC who has completed a graduate degree and could provide advanced writing support. It would be critical that such a position require expanded hours beyond the current URWC’s hours of Monday through Thursday, 10am to 5:30 pm, with drop-in hours only from 2 to 4 pm. The scheduled drop-in hours are not ideal for working graduate students who primarily take their classes at night. Graduate students have expressed a desire to have a dedicated graduate writing studio and support services.

Graduate students would be better able to spend time on campus and participate in the campus community if there were more opportunities to work on campus. In addition, linking student employment to admissions offers would assist the campus to recruit strong candidates for our graduate programs. For example, a graduate program might guarantee two semesters of work as a TA or GA along with its admissions offer. In addition, increased positions for Teaching Associates and Graduate Assistantships would provide students with work experience in their fields.

Graduate students are often on campus in the evenings and sometimes on weekends and find it frustrating and isolating that they are not able to access supports and resources that they need. Therefore, expansion of business hours for campus resources is needed along with the provision of online access to resources if in-person services are not possible. Such resources include the Graduate Center, Writing Center, Union, their department offices, and child care.

Graduate students may feel that communication from the campus tends to focus on undergraduates, which can make them feel that they are not as important and relevant to the campus community. They may not also be clear about what organizations, activities, and resources welcome their involvement, as the “default” communication appears to be geared towards undergraduates. Improvements and updates in communication modalities and strategies are needed; as we continue in the digital age where modes of communication are changing, students expect digital communication using social media and may prefer that as a source for receiving school-related information along with SacSend messages directed specifically to the needs of graduate students or the messages being sent to be inclusive of the graduate student population. Fostering a graduate student community at Sacramento State would include building connections among graduate programs on campus that otherwise work in silos. The Graduate Student Advisory Council (GSAC) is a formal campus organization that provides these types of connections through meetings and sponsored events. GSAC functions in an advisory capacity to the Dean and ASI Director of Graduate Studies and encourages graduate students to become involved with the university community and to advance graduate and professional studies on our campus. Each academic department has one graduate student representative. Among their signature events is Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week. As with all student organizations, the success of GSAC depends on the active participation and leadership of its members. GSAC is the ideal vehicle for planning and presenting various topics in support of graduate student success, including timely graduation. One idea sent to the task force was for a workshop on school-work-life balance, which would be an ideal event for GSAC to develop and host. GSAC has great potential that is not yet fully realized. Increased efforts towards outreach (e.g., via social media), visibility, and activity are recommended.

In addition to expanding GSAC participation, individual departments, in particular department chairs and graduate coordinators, can also make sure that they are planning experiences for their graduate students, such as graduate student social events, graduate internship workshops, interdisciplinary/interdepartmental collaborations and coursework, and hosting online support/training/discussion/collaboration for graduate teaching and research assistants. Some students may feel that building community and networking within their programs is a higher priority than across campus.

The Sacramento State campus has made great strides in efforts to generate a campus climate of inclusivity and equity for a diverse range of students. Despite this work, a number of graduate students have expressed the need to develop the same atmosphere at the graduate level. One recommendation is for the Centers for Diversity & Inclusion to make sure its services and events are also accessible to graduate students by providing services and holding more events after 5 p.m. Better acknowledgement and appreciation of the graduate-student experience of marginalized and disenfranchised communities is also appropriate. Of course, it is not the sole responsibility of the CDI to promote inclusivity on our campus. Academic departments and colleges are encouraged to host events and partner with the CDI and Graduate Diversity Program to coordinate services, speakers, and events which promote diversity and inclusion at the graduate level.

There is also the need for specialized writing support for individuals for whom English is not their first language (ESL). Any and all resources that are provided to ESL students should be reviewed to determine if they adequately cater to graduate students doing coursework or working on their thesis or project.

Increased financial resources directed towards or focused on diverse student groups are needed. The Office of Graduate Studies provides a webpage that lists various financial resources that are listed under the Graduate Diversity Programs, such as the California Pre-Doctoral Program, the Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive/Forgivable Loan Program, and the Graduate Equity Fellowship.

Each of these provide welcome assistance for students-at-large, with some programs especially encouraging of underrepresented student populations. Additional funding to expand these programs would have a corresponding larger impact on diverse graduate student groups. In addition, eligibility criteria for the programs should be reexamined for potential institutional barriers impacting marginalized and disenfranchised communities.

Building a graduate community should expand beyond campus boundaries and involve the Sacramento region as well. Many graduate programs require field placements and internships, which are necessary for acquiring professional skills, preparing for licensure, and networking for future employment opportunities. Here students can develop pride that they are “Made at Sac State” and have tangible experiences that demonstrate how their graduate degrees will make an impact on the community.

It bears mentioning that nearly all of these ideas for building graduate student community on campus are extra/co-curricular activities that require supervision, advising, and support from departments and particularly graduate coordinators and graduate faculty. In order to facilitate these types of resources, activities, and connections, assigned time and other forms of faculty support would be needed; for example, building community among graduate coordinators through graduate coordinator meetings and brown bag lunch discussions. The monthly graduate coordinator meetings serve as venues to dispense meeting relative to the operational needs of the graduate programs. Building a connection for inclusion and support of graduate students requires an allocation of resources and an infusion of energy to embrace our students’ intellectual curiosity.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. Create and expand dedicated space for active engagement, such as graduate study/collaborative/lounge spaces with special attention to this as new buildings are built. Hold collaborative events, such as thesis and doctoral workshops, in such spaces that facilitate graduate student interaction.
  2. Create a graduate writing support center and maintain graduate writing tutors.
  3. Expand on-campus work opportunities for graduate students, which will reduce the need for off-campus work and increase the amount of time spent on campus. Consider linking work opportunities to admissions offers to strengthen recruitment efforts.
  4. Expand business hours for campus resources needed by graduate students and provide online access if in-person services are not possible.
  5. Improve and update communication modalities and strategies affecting graduate students.
  6. Increase visibility and participation in the Graduate Student Advisory Council and its events.
  7. Strengthen efforts to generate a campus climate of inclusivity and equity for a diverse range of students within our graduate programs.
  8. Expand graduate student community into the Sacramento region through community connections, internships, and future career opportunities.

Faculty Resources, Budget Allocation & Finances

Support for graduate student success clearly requires substantial effort by faculty who teach, mentor, and supervise graduate students. Compensation for this work in the form of workload inclusion (i.e., assigned time) is insufficient and inconsistent across programs, departments, and colleges, and many faculty continue to do this work as an overload.

At an early March 2017 meeting of Graduate Program Directors at Sacramento State, all directors present took a survey developed by the work group that was intended to gauge opinions on faculty resource concerns pertaining to graduate education, and their opinions on alternatives to deal with these concerns (see Appendix B). More specifically, the questions asked about the perceived adequacy of resources, course relief, and compensation allocated towards recognizing the time and energy required to teach graduate courses, supervise culminating projects, and advise graduate students. Although there was a range of opinions, the central tendency was that resources were between “somewhat inadequate” and “enough to get by”. Open ended responses by the coordinators included concerns and suggestions that reflected and reinforced discussions of the task force (e.g., assigned time, tuition waivers, TA/GA funding, child care)

This survey data is consistent with long-standing and overwhelming concern regarding the support for, nature of, and current inequity throughout multiple forms of supervising graduate students and programs. Paramount to this is a call for release time institutionalized across graduate programs. Designated release time for supervising graduate teaching and research, supervising thesis projects, coordinating (chairing) graduate programs, as well as conducting graduate experiences (e.g., teaching) is needed. Continuing to provide these necessary supports without adequate compensation conveys the message of an undervaluing of graduate education on our campus.

Extending the issue of compensation for supervising graduate students, there is a need for a clearer policy and protocol around institutional support around teaching loads at the graduate level. In the past few years, there has been a shift in expectations for new tenure track hires as well as generally in the culture for full-time faculty. That is, there has been attention to tenure track faculty increasing productivity around research and academic publications. While welcomed by many, there lacks consistency on how this work is valued and supported institutionally. At baseline, it would be helpful to have protocols (e.g., available in some departments on campus currently, as well as commonplace at many other universities) that allow for faculty to arrange their productivity each semester or for an academic year. For example, it would be helpful for faculty to be able to contract with their department to reduce their teaching load by one or two courses contingent upon scholarly work (e.g., conducting research, writing peer-review manuscripts).

Related to this is a need for more equity in course load assignments across graduate programs. Some faculty have a three course (3:3) load each term, while others have a four course (4:4) load each term. Graduate instruction is not the same as undergraduate instruction. Also, increases in teaching loads necessarily decrease the ability to produce the scholarly products that the university is increasingly valuing for tenure track faculty. In the Resources and Finances section, below, is a related recommendation for a different calculation of FTES between undergraduate and graduate.

Faculty resources also include continuing to hire faculty who will teach at the graduate level, with an emphasis on hiring diverse faculty members. Diversity is essential for graduate programming on many levels. Core to this is representation for the students, as well as ensuring a variety of ideas, research projects, and curriculum that bolster the integrity and diversity of the graduate experience. While there is a renewed emphasis on hiring for diversity within the university, it is important for faculty to know how diversity is being valued in the outreach and retention programming for all faculty that is inclusive of all forms of diversity. The newly established Office of Equity, Diversity, and has created infrastructure for launching and maintaining various diversity initiatives, including stronger guidelines for hiring diverse faculty. These efforts are crucial to improving the vitality and energy surrounding graduate programs and developing strong supports for graduate student success.

Related to the issue of diversity, graduate faculty and their programs appear to receive less public affairs/public relations attention as compared to the undergraduate programs and other units on campus. In general, there exists an opportunity for the university to increasingly “brag” about graduate faculty, programs, and research programs (e.g., many alumni featured as “Made at Sac State” are likely to have been graduate students). In addition, there is a need for more consistent and robust web profiles of faculty that should include their photos, their CVs, and links to graduate programs and research projects or centers. Perhaps graduate students can also be similarly featured.

In order to achieve many of the recommendations and improvements related to faculty resources, additional administrative support is also needed. There exists needs for greater clerical support, greater assessment support, and greater support from OGS. Central to this is the numbers of staff in respective offices.

Discussions of budget allocation and finances centered on the availability of university resources for graduate education, its distribution among graduate programs, the current method of allocation of graduate resources, and how changes in resource distribution could help strengthen the reputation of publicly supported master’s programs at Sac State. We believe this is important because of the increasing role that our master’s programs will continue to play in satisfying the workforce needs in the Sacramento Region. As Sac State achieves its goal of producing more adults who hold a bachelor’s degree, there will no doubt be an increased demand for some of them to return to Sac State for a master’s degree to distinguish themselves in the job market. As we understand it, each college at Sac State receives currently a total annual budget from which to fund both undergraduate and graduate education. The Dean of each college consults with the college’s Department Chairs and then decides how much (what percentage) of their college budget to allocate to each department. When graduate allotments are insufficient to cover the needs of the program, it is up to the chairperson and faculty of the department to work out ad hoc ways of funding and otherwise provisioning their master’s program. We believe this often results in an underfunding of graduate education at Sac State and contributes to the challenge of inconsistent quality and some less than competitive master’s programs. This underfunding and sometimes lack of transparency in funding concerns the Task Force because it limits the degree to which we are able to assess whether a graduate program has adequate resources to be held accountable in assessment of its learning goals and other success measures. In addition, because graduate program funding is largely dependent on an individual college’s undergraduate offerings, there is no consistent minimum funding floor across the colleges.

We recommend that Academic Affairs explore alternate funding models that would enrich support for graduate programs. This would potentially include modifying the formula for calculating graduate FTES relative to undergraduate FTES and reviewing WTUs accorded to graduate courses. It would also include funding for graduate program coordinators in the form of course relief.

Redefining the budget structure for graduate programs would acknowledge important differences between undergraduate and graduate programs, such as the need for smaller student sections in graduate education, the additional preparation needed to teach and grade graduate level courses, higher expectations for currency in the field and pursuing an active research agenda involving graduate students, and more extensive time commitments for advising graduate students and supervising their culminating projects. Currently, the admission allocations, domestic and international, for each graduate program are set by the college deans in consultation with the department chairs. The determination of available slots for admissions is often a conflicting decision between quality of the applicant pool and the desire to have sufficient enrollment to offer graduate courses. Members of the Graduate Council have expressed frustration with the number of special action admissions petitions being submitted as departments reach deeper into their applicant pool to fill the available slots for enrollment.

Establishment of the types of resource changes would provide a floor for the minimum resources needed for the provision of a quality and competitive graduate education for our students, and importantly preserve college and department control of the allocation of these resources for master’s education. Not only will adequate resources allow for faculty to provide the proper supervision and instruction of graduate students, but also they would have the time and energy to actively engage in the recruitment process to attract, select, and retain quality graduate students. We fully recognize that this only accounts for the faculty needs of offering a master’s program. Other programs such as the physical sciences, engineering, and the arts may also require additional resources for equipment needs, which may be available through general equipment allocations and also serve undergraduates.

Summary of Recommendations:

  1. Provide release time for supervising graduate teaching and research, supervising thesis projects, coordinating (chairing) graduate programs, as well as conducting graduate experiences.
  2. Develop clearer policy and protocol around institutional support for teaching loads at the graduate level.
  3. Provide options for faculty to be able to contract with their department to reduce their teaching load by one or two courses, contingent upon scholarly work.
  4. Recognize that graduate instruction is not the same as undergraduate instruction for the purpose of FTES calculation and assignment of WTU.
  5. Strengthen efforts to hire diverse faculty for graduate programs.
  6. Increase public relations/public affairs efforts to feature accomplishments of graduate alumni.
  7. Request that Academic Affairs explore alternate budget and funding models for graduate education that would result in minimum floors for graduate programs across campus.
  8. Re-examine formulas for calculating FTES and assigning WTUs to graduate level courses.

Workforce Development & Graduate Education

Graduate Education at Sacramento State University has the potential to address significant workforce education needs, with particular reference to the master’s degree or other postgraduate credentials. Sacramento State is here to provide our students the best opportunity to be successful in their academic pursuit and in their careers after graduation. The Graduate Education Taskforce reflected on the benefits of graduate education to the Sacramento region, the state, and beyond as well as addressing how course programming and degree offerings can expand to meet the needs of the regional workforce.

There is a growing need for competitively qualified graduates to answer the increasing demand as unemployment in California continues to drop and job growth is on a steady rise (EDD). Between the years of 2014 - 2024, California is expected to generate over 2.6 million new jobs from industry growth with nearly 4 million additional jobs due to replacement needs. Projections through 2024 show the greatest demand are occupations within educational services, health care, and social services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, projections for the next 10 years show slower growth in the labor force. Similar to local trends, healthcare and social assistance industries are projected to account for over one-third of total job growth nationally. Additionally, “the fastest growth among detailed occupations is projected to be in jobs requiring a graduate degree for entry.” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Growing occupations requiring graduate level education in California between the years 2015- 2017 are indicated in the following table:

[missing table]

Likewise, the 10-year California industry forecast for 2014-2024 showed seventy-one percent of all projected non-farm growth is expected to be concentrated in six sectors: educational services, health care, and social assistance; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; and construction. The private Service providing sector is projected to account for 83.1% of nonfarm growth over the 10-year period with an expected 75% of the growth within that sector occurring in educational services, health care, and social assistance; professional business services; and leisure and hospitality. California’s top 10 fastest growing occupations come from construction, professional and business services, health care and social assistance, manufacturing, and accommodation and food services with the median hourly wages ranging from $11.65 to $58.40. In addition to growing occupational opportunities with graduate degrees, national data show significant increases in median earnings and decreases in unemployment rates for individuals with graduate degrees. Employment projections show steady growth due to new job as well as replacement needs. Regionally as well as nationally, healthcare and social services are expected to be the leading industries contributing towards job growth. Having a master’s degree might lead to advancement or higher pay compared to other workers who have a bachelor’s degree and lessen the chances of unemployment [src]. We must also account for practical experience in the specific field as a factor in higher wages. Providing opportunities to obtain practical experience along with an education could help promote the academic path to a master’s degree for career obtainment or advancement.

While this task force group was able to establish some recommendations for graduate education at Sacramento State, we also understand that there cannot be one blanket solution across campus and any given situation. Each college and department must examine their individual programs to see if these recommendations might be able to answer their educational needs in order to provide the best education and practical experience for student success at Sacramento State and their career. It is imperative that the graduate programs at Sacramento State continue to decrease the time in which students are completing their academic programs and increase the opportunities that will provide our graduates the practical experience needed to competitively enter the workforce in their career.

Based on our review of labor market trends, we recommend increased tracking and marketing of the successes from and within our graduate programs. Expanding experiences and opportunities that will help prepare graduate students for the workforce would also be helpful. Supporting graduate students to graduate in a timely fashion is important, given that students seeking a master’s degree are likely doing so for specific career opportunities. Examining their motivation and providing programs that offer the needed education in a reasonable period of time can help them become more competitive in their desired field. Each field of study would need to examine the needs of the career paths to determine the amount of time that will provide the best education and practical experience opportunities.

In order to meet the increasing demand of the workforce, we should examine the time in which students are delayed from entering the workforce. Current graduate programs should be examined for innovative options that will allow graduate students to expedite their time to graduate. An example of an innovative option (also mentioned in prior sections of this report) could be 5-year contiguous programs in which a student could complete both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Curricula planning should include field assignments, internships, research, or other opportunities to extend the classroom for practical application. In addition, new programs should also be examined to see if there is a gap between degree programs offered and the increasing industry demands. Additionally, the characteristics and demands of graduate students should be considered in program structure that can allow students to maximize their time on campus while meeting professional and personal demands. Online and hybrid programs could present graduate students the opportunity to maintain a full-time course load in programs where working in the field supports the learning and/or meets their financial responsibilities without reducing the units taken per semester.

Graduate students need to complete their degree in order to begin or advance their careers. The financial impact that comes from taking the time to obtain the education and skills needed for one’s career can be a barrier to graduate education. Thus, timely degree completion is supported by providing students with financial resources that can help reduce the barriers as well as hardships that many graduate students face. Examples of some resource opportunities could be grants, scholarships, and paid internships specific to graduate students to help defray the costs for courses, travel funds for conferences, and many other expenses. We should expand our philanthropic efforts to encompass resources for graduate students. Working with our campus community and organizations and experts in the field to sponsor these opportunities can help reduce the barriers for graduate students to pursue a degree and create a professional network. Improving access to and collaborating with practitioners in the community could help provide students with the opportunity to create connections to their related career field. We know that active learning and high impact practices support learning goals and also prepares students for the workforce, and enhances their career opportunities. Thus, it is imperative that they have the opportunity to develop and practice the skills needed and build connections with subject matter experts in their career field. Programs could be enriched by collaborating with experts in the field to enhance the learning with guest speakers, career panels, networking events, internships, job shadowing, and mentoring. Partnering with organizations to engage and enhance the learning of the graduate programs can provide these organizations with access to experienced graduates and by hiring them increase their own brand across the campus community.

Summary of Recommendations:

  1. Determine efficient program timelines that provide graduate educational experiences needed by the specific career paths relevant to the field of study.
  2. Create blended programs that expedite time to graduate degrees, which should also include opportunities for practical application through fieldwork, internships, and research.
  3. Increase grants, scholarships, and paid internships for graduate students in order to decrease time to degree. Expand our philanthropic efforts to encompass graduate student needs.
  4. Develop new graduate program proposals that respond to gaps in existing degree programs that could meet increasing industry demands.
  5. Develop online and hybrid program options which would support timely degree progress of working students and those with extensive financial responsibilities.
  6. Collaborate with community partners to provide students with opportunities to network within their career fields, enhance career opportunities, and enhance their learning through various college-community partnerships and events.

Conclusion

Graduate education provides a remarkable opportunity for supporting the region with a
workforce equipped with advanced knowledge and specialized talents and abilities. As a large
comprehensive university, Sacramento State has a commitment to the region to fulfill its
undergraduate teaching obligations; however, these commitments to service and undergraduate teaching cannot be met without the cultivation of excellence in faculty research and graduate education. By strengthening the research and graduate education components of the campus, we can strengthen the undergraduate teaching and service levels on campus. The recommendations in this report offer a strategic framework for the university to make investments in graduate education (Appendix A).

This President’s Graduate Education Task Force report follows this framework, taking into
account the President’s four imperatives (timely graduation, diversity/inclusion/equity,
community collaboration, and philanthropy). It supports the goals and mission of Sacramento
State, and calls for a greater campus coordinated effort to invest in graduate education for the
benefit of both undergraduate and graduate students. These recommendations will serve as the
foundation for the campus investment in graduate education over the next 3 to 5 years. By
focusing not only on the operational needs of graduate student services but also on the faculty
research and support, we can build a stronger graduate student community, and provide faculty
with the resources to support graduate student success.

Appendix A: 2016-2017 Task Force on Graduate Education Recommendations

Graduate Student Academic Experiences

  • Increase options for blended BA/BS-to-MA/MS programs
  • Increase options for MSW-MPH dual degree programs (e.g., MSW-MPH)
  • Increased options for (practice, leadership) doctoral education
  • Formalize mechanisms for financial support for Teaching Associate and Graduate
  • Assistant positions (e.g., tuition waivers, academic student employment)
  • Increase funding support for graduate education (e.g., dedicated graduate student writing studio, expanded support for graduate student research, child care availability, housing availability for traditional graduate students, online degree programs, non-traditional course offerings such as weekend programs)
  • Provide better institutional clarity about options, pathways, advising needs, and expectations for the culminating experience, i.e., the independent thesis/project, seminarbased thesis/capstone project, or final comprehensive exam.
  • Provide stable support for academic journals and other library resources required for graduate student research
  • Consider additional staffing resources for the Office of Graduate Studies to accommodate student requests for changing the filing deadlines for advancing to candidacy and applying for graduation.

Graduate Student Community & Supports

  • Create and expand dedicated space for active engagement, such as graduate study/collaborative/lounge spaces with special attention to this as new buildings are built.
  • Collaborative events can be held in such spaces, such as thesis and doctoral workshops, which facilitate graduate student interaction.
  • Create a graduate writing support center and maintain graduate writing tutors.
  • Expand on-campus work opportunities for graduate students, which will reduce the need for off-campus work and increase the amount of time spent on campus. Consider linking work opportunities to admissions offers to strengthen recruitment efforts.
  • Expand business hours for campus resources needed by graduate students and provide online access if in-person services are not possible.
  • Improve and update communication modalities and strategies affecting graduate students. Increase visibility and participation in the Graduate Student Advisory Council and its events.
  • Strengthen efforts to generate a campus climate of inclusivity and equity for a diverse range of students within our graduate programs.
  • Expand graduate student community into the Sacramento region through community connections, internships, and future career opportunities.

Faculty Resources, Budget Allocation & Finances

  • Provide faculty reassigned/release time for supervising graduate teaching and research, supervising thesis projects, coordinating (chairing) graduate programs, as well as conducting graduate experiences.
  • Develop clearer policy and protocol around institutional support for teaching loads at the graduate level.
  • Provide options for faculty to be able to contract with their department to reduce their teaching load by one or two courses, contingent upon scholarly work.
  • Recognize that graduate instruction is not the same as undergraduate instruction.
  • Strengthen efforts to hire diverse faculty for graduate programs. Increase public relations/public affairs efforts to feature accomplishments of graduate alumni.
  • Request that Academic Affairs explore alternate budget and funding models for graduate education that would result in minimum floors for graduate programs across campus. Re-examine formulas for calculating FTES and assigning WTUs to graduate level courses.

Preparation for Workforce and Post-Graduate Education

  • Determine efficient program timelines that provide graduate educational experiences needed by the specific career paths relevant to the field of study.
  • Create blended programs that expedite time to graduate degrees, which should also include opportunities for practical application through fieldwork, internships, and research.
  • Increase grants, scholarships, and paid internships for graduate students in order to decrease time to degree. Expand our philanthropic efforts to encompass graduate student needs.
  • Develop new graduate program proposals that respond to gaps in existing degree programs that could meet increasing industry demands.
  • Develop online and hybrid program options which would support timely degree progress of working students and those with extensive financial responsibilities.
  • Collaborate with community partners to provide students with opportunities to network within their career fields, enhance career opportunities, and enhance their learning through various college-community partnerships and events.

Appendix B: Graduate Coordinator Survey

The survey asked three questions with possible fixed responses (0=fully inadequate,
1=somewhat inadequate, 2=enough to get by, 3=somewhat adequate, and 4=highly adequate)
and one question that allowed for an open-ended response. Below is a summary of responses
questions, along with an average response values and ranges where appropriate (N=11).

Question 1: How adequate is the resources/course relief policies/compensation/etc. that your
college allocates toward recognizing that teaching a graduate course requires a greater amount
of time/energy/evaluation/preparation than an undergraduate course:
Average rating: 1.2, just above “somewhat inadequate” (range 0-4)

Question 2: How adequate is resources/course relief policies/compensation/etc. that your college allocates toward recognizing that supervising master’s theses/projects/dissertations requires a greater amount of time/energy/evaluation/preparation than an undergraduate course:
Average rating: 1.4, between “somewhat inadequate” and “enough to get by” (range 1-3)

Question 3: How adequate is resources/course relief policies/compensation/etc. that your college allocates toward recognizing that direction and advising of students in graduate programs requires a greater amount of time/energy/evaluation/preparation than an undergraduate course:
Average rating: 1.3, between “somewhat inadequate” and “enough to get by” (range 0-4)

Open-ended survey Question 4:  What (additional) resources would be helpful to support you/your faculty in conducting your graduate program?

  • We have zero support teaching internships/mentorships
  • More support goes to undergraduate than graduate
  • We would like a way to encourage all faculty to participate in teaching and advising grad students
  • Assigned time no longer available
  • A place on campus for grad students to meet
  • Course relief for grad coordinator
  • Funding for TAs would be good for students
  • Child care for grad students with children
  • Course relief for supervising thesis
  • I do not think the college recognizes any difference between teaching a grad and undergrad course.
  • More PR about what are grad students are doing
  • Tuition waivers for TAs
  • Greater clerical and assessment support
  • We ask for grad resources repeatedly, but not forthcoming
  • FTE credit for project/thesis advising; currently faculty do not take on grad students because there is no credit
  • Release time for grad coordinator
  • More data about grad school scholarships
  • Designated unit relief for faculty who supervise grad students
  • One course relief for supervising three master’s students
  • Funding for TAs and GAs
  • Release time for faculty sponsoring of TA/GAs

March 2017

Members of the President’s Task Force on Graduate Education

  • Chevelle Newsome, Co-Chair/Academic Affairs
  • Marya Endriga, Co-Chair/Graduate Studies
  • Ben Amata, Library (Library representative)
  • Tyler Arguello, Social Work (Faculty Senate representative)
  • Rosemary Bjorkman, Anthropology (Graduate Student Advisory Council representative)
  • Geni Cowan, Graduate and Professional Studies (COE college representative)
  • Tracy Hamilton, Mathematics & Statistics (Faculty Senate representative)
  • Jamie Kneitel, Biological Sciences (NSM college representative)
  • Jai Joon Lee, Business Administration (CBA college representative)
  • Anne Lindsay, History (A&L college representative)
  • Andrew Michaud, ASI Graduate Director (Associate Students Inc. representative)
  • Crystal Sims, College of Continuing Education (University Staff Assembly representative)
  • Troy Topping, Department of Mechanical Engineering (ECS college representative)
  • Santos Torres, Social Work (HHS college representative)
  • Rob Wassmer, PPA (SSIS college representative)
  • Helen Wussow, College of Continuing Education (CCE college representative)