Maturing the graduate and professional programs
Missouri State University is committed to providing the programs and scholarship that will make it a regional center for graduate education. In recent years, Missouri State has ranked as either the third or fourth largest public provider of graduate education in Missouri. The decade of the 1990s was a time of unparalleled growth in graduate education at Missouri State. The number of graduate programs, graduate enrollment, and the graduate-student percentage of total enrollment all doubled. During the implementation of the most recent long-range plan, Missouri State has continued to increase the number of programs (from 39 in 1999 to 43 in 2004), including the addition of the doctorate in Audiology, and the number of graduate students peaked at 3,270 in 2002. Attaining and maintaining the highest possible quality of these programs is now critical if Missouri State is to remain a pre-eminent provider of graduate education.
The master’s degree is increasingly recognized as a valued and essential credential for a variety of careers. There also is market-driven student demand for master’s degree preparation in vocations such as teacher education, health care and other professions requiring licensure or managerial qualifications (for example, Physicians Assistant, Physical Therapy, Nurse Anesthesia, and Accountancy). The master’s degree programs at Missouri State vary in focus, including traditional academic master’s degrees, professional master’s degrees, and applied master’s degrees. A number of these degrees have a unique structure, are offered in special formats, or are programs not offered by any other public institutions in the state. These include: the M.S.–Physician Assistant Studies; M.S.–Defense and Strategic Studies (Washington, D.C. area-based); on-line M.S.–Administrative Studies; on-line/on campus blended M.S.–Computer Information Systems; Master in Natural & Applied Sciences; and the Doctorate in Audiology.
Over the next five years, Missouri State University will make those investments in graduate education that have the best potential to increase the quality and appropriate quantity its graduate programs require.
Significant progress has been made in the past 10 years to increase access for students by delivery of graduate programs and courses using technology, but more will need to be done. Societal needs in post-baccalaureate education require innovative and flexible programming along with efficient use of University resources. To answer the many needs of graduate education, the Graduate College must have resources that are flexible and can be reallocated on an annual basis. New technology and distance education initiatives from other institutions in and outside of Missouri, plus the appearance of satellite campuses from other institutions, have created a competitive environment that could threaten Missouri State’s status as the premier graduate institution in the region.
Missouri State must take steps to remain ahead of the competition. University policies must be updated to encourage strategic course delivery, scheduling, fee structure, cooperative programs, etc. In addition, more flexibility in resource use should be developed, to include the use of funds to recruit and retain the best graduate students, and the creative use of space and equipment to maximize instructional outcomes. Finally, enhanced flexibility in, and rewards for, the dedication of faculty time to graduate education is crucial.
In addition to providing graduate students with rigorous coursework and scholarly independent work, it is important to provide practical experience in the discipline. An ideal mechanism for this is with graduate assistantships. Use of graduate assistants to assist in teaching lower-division classes can be expanded. These graduate assistants receive intensive training at both the University and departmental levels and work closely with the instructor for the class. In addition, other graduate students (with appropriate backgrounds) can be used in administrative or clinical settings, thus freeing up faculty time or reducing the need for staff or per-course instructors.
Missouri State will strive for modest growth in graduate enrollment, remaining in the range of 3,000-3,500 degree-seeking and post-baccalaureate students. Maintaining high quality programs at this level of enrollment will require recognition of the workload differences inherent in graduate education and a commitment of resources to several key initiatives, including those that strengthen our research infrastructure and that improve recruitment and retention of high-quality graduate students.