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Grad school self-evaluates to meet $1.7m savings goal

By LibMueller
On December 7, 2012

The Strategic Priorities Task Force (SPTF), created in 2010, made recommendations focused on cutting costs and increasing revenues at Miami University, including overall savings or revenue offset of $1.7 million by fiscal year 2015 within Miami's graduate school, according to Jim Oris, associate provost for research and scholarship and the dean of the graduate school.

Ray Gorman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said part of the savings goal has been met through cuts to assistantships in the full time MBA program in the Farmer School of Business.

"The one program where we have reduced the number of assistantships is the full time MBA program in the business school," Gorman said. "We had something like 30 assistantships in the MBA program and those assistantships have been suspended and eliminated."

Oris said the cuts to assistantships within the business school met approximately 50 percent of the total savings goal of $1.7 million.

Although the SPTF estimated a net loss of approximately 43 assistantships and tuition waivers, Oris said the graduate school does not foresee additional decreases in assistantships allocated to divisions by the graduate school.

"If a program demonstrates high quality and a strategic vision for its future, the deans may recommend that assistantship support for a graduate program be enhanced," Oris said.

Oris said that all academic programs, including graduate programs, undergo a continuous review process.

"Academic reviews were already in place," Oris said. "Programs were being evaluated and assistantships were being reallocated before the Strategic Priorities report. In a nutshell, the Strategic Priorities report set a savings goal and we were to use existing processes to [achieve the goal]. Because the Farmer School released [their eliminations of assistantships], that helped us meet a lot of the cuts."

Oris said the graduate school will focus on revenue-generating opportunities to meet the rest of the savings goal.

"The graduate school is working with the academic deans to meet the rest of the savings goal by increasing revenues through program offerings that are intended to attract fee-paying graduate students," Oris said.

Alexa Sanders is in the master of accountancy program at Miami. She said without the scholarships offered to the students in her Farmer School of Business program, she is not sure those students would have been attracted to the graduate program at Miami.

"[There are] 22 students in my program and I like to think it's a high quality program but without those scholarships I'm not sure these people would have been attracted," Sanders said.

Sanders has full scholarship for her master's program.

"I know that I am on full scholarship to be here for my grad program and I know that was a huge reason why I came to Miami," Sanders said. "I'm not sure what the strategic plan is long-term, but if you're trying to attract and recruit high talent individuals I don't understand why you would get rid of these assistantships."

Oris said the university is committed to maintaining assistantship programs throughout the term of study for current students and the graduate school's main efforts for the next several years will be to find new sources of revenue.

Oris said there are other ways the graduate school is increasing revenues. He said more programs, especially at the master's level, will be coming soon. The newly revised master's in the department of social work and the anticipated revisions in the Master of Environmental Science, for example, are advanced degrees intended for career development and are tuition-paying programs.

Gorman also said the graduate school will focus on looking for tuition-paying students rather than reducing the number of assistantships to meet the savings figure laid out by the SPTF.

"We will be trying to minimize the effects on graduate students," Gorman said. "The other thing that we're likely to see is that some students will be partially funded on graduate assistantships, students getting half of the assistantship and paying half of the tuition."

David Creamer, vice president for finance and business services, said there are two groups of graduate education enrollment, one that requires no financial payments from the graduate student but other contributions like teaching or being a research assistant. The other students pay full tuition. Creamer said the SPTF's focus is on the second group of students.

"The focus here was how tuition-paying programs can be developed in the future to focus more on the second group of students who are paying tuition," Creamer said. "The other group is not being removed but there should be more focus on this other category going forward."

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