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The Graduate College is considering changing their funding of fellowships

BY GRETA MEYLE | DECEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Graduate College is considering decreasing fellowship grants in the next few years based on graduation rates. However, how college will reallocate these funds remains to be seen.

While these grants are awarded to the most competitive incoming graduate students, University of Iowa Dean and Associate Provost for Graduate Education John Keller said a study the school conducted over the summer and fall showed UI officials are not seeing as much success from Presidential Fellowships as other endowed fellowships.

“The Graduate College is looking at our resources to make sure they are being used as strategically as possible,” Keller said at the Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday night in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

According to the study conducted by the Graduate College, students awarded the Ballard-Seashore Dissertation and Summer Fellowships graduate at a rate of more than 90 percent regardless of discipline, while students receiving top recruitment fellowships such as the Presidential and Dean’s Under Represented Minority Fellowships graduate at a rate of approximately 68 percent.

Keller noted that this rate would cost the college greatly.

“While 68 percent is the guideline we are looking for in terms of diagonal of completion, a top recruitment fellowship can cost the Graduate College over $150,000, and that’s just our cost,” Keller said in the meeting. “That concerns us greatly.”

The Graduate College allocated $19.4 million for fiscal 2013. Of competitive fellowships, this included $3.7 million allocated for Presidential and Deans Under Represented Minority Fellowships versus $900,000 allocated for Ballard-Seashore Dissertation and Summer Fellowships. He said changes would most likely not apply to the Deans Minority Fellowships because of their purpose of diversity.

Keller also discussed the possibility of dividing the funds for the Presidential Fellowship so students are no longer funded for their full five years and use those resources elsewhere.

Faculty Senate President Erika Lawrence said that while she understands the reasons for potential changes, it creates other problems, and she believes they should begin awarding on a basis of program success.

“As research assistantships go down because grant funding is harder to get, fellowships go down,” Lawrence said. “And teaching assistantships are wonderful, but they also make it harder for students to get their research done, so there is a longer time to degree, which is considered a measure of the success of your graduate program. So there are tremendous implications for graduate students to get the work done that they need to get jobs and for faculty to be able to train our students as best as we can.”

Ben Gillig, the president of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, echoed Lawrence’s issues with time as an issue for graduate students. He said both categories of fellowship are important to the university.

“As a president of [the Executive Council], something that the grad students have voiced concerns over is time to degree,” Gillig said. “I applaud the Graduate College for looking at what it’s going to take to improve time to get the degree, and we look forward to improving this with them in the future, to ensure what’s good for the university and students’ professional development.”

UI graduate research assistant Tessa Quintero believes the college should begin to base their admissions process on student success and program expectations.

“I think they are just trying to come up with a more effective way to encourage student success with their finite resources,” she said “One idea is to begin awarding students who are doing well in their graduate programs as a merit-based system, and obviously, it is still in the preliminary stages.”


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