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Editorial: Graduate college shouldn't overlook undergrads

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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The University of Iowa and its governing bodies have consistently made efforts to draw Iowa students, such as a comparatively low in-state tuition that may be frozen by the state Board of Regents this coming year.

But the UI Graduate College also hopes to bring in more nonresident students from a wide sample of undergraduate institutions from across the country in an effort to broaden viewpoints with a diverse population.

“It doesn’t take long to have one perspective and narrow view if we’re only training people from the undergraduate school,” Graduate College Dean John Keller said. “[We] need a different view.”

When admitting students, the college takes a “holistic” view of applications, considering where students received their undergraduate degree, Keller said.

While diversity is a good goal to strive for, officials should take care not to dismiss an applicant because of geographical concerns. The UI shouldn’t send the message that in-state students are a lower priority.

All across America, colleges are trending toward more ethnically diverse campuses. From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Latino students rose from 3 percent to 13 percent, the percentage of Asian/Pacific Island students rose from 2 percent to 6 percent, and the percentage of black students rose from 9 percent to 14 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Even at the UI, in a state in which minorities only make up 7.2 percent of the population, diversity is comparatively high, approximately 13 percent of the university’s students. Five percent of UI students are Latino, 3.5 percent are Asian American, and 3 percent are African American.

The UI fares better in terms of geographic diversity. More than 45 percent of the UI’s undergraduates come from somewhere other than Iowa, and more students come from foreign countries than from U.S. states outside of the Midwest. If the Graduate College wishes to admit students with diverse backgrounds and points of view, UI undergrads aren’t a bad place to look.

There are also benefits to having students who are settled on campus. Professional and internship connections that students have made in their undergraduate studies can prove to be helpful resources in grad school as well. Additionally, students with jobs near campus would be able to transition easier to graduate school without having to deal with job searching as well as coursework.

One can make the argument that just because the Graduate College is seeking outside applicants does not mean it rejects in-house applications. But telling undergraduate students they should seek education elsewhere from their alma mater sends a confusing message.

One graduate student at the college thought students shouldn’t rule out staying at the university.

“If people look at elevating their academic level, don’t let it stop them if it [means staying].” Ph.D. student Gwen Archibald said.

The logical next step after graduation for many undergraduate students is graduate school. And though a smart applicant would apply to as many institutions as possible, the university should keep the door open for undergraduate students who wish to continue on their education path in Iowa City.

There is a place for diversity of thought, but such goals shouldn’t come at the expense of scholars looking to advance their education in a familiar setting.


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