Texas A&M Selected To Partner In National Study Of STEM Master’s Degree Programs

 a student works at his computerWASHINGTON, D. C., June 24, 2011 — Texas A&M University has been selected by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) as one of five institutions to partner in a national study on completion and attrition in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) master’s programs.

As part of the study, which is supported by funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the participating universities will collect data on completion and attrition in STEM master’s degree programs, administer surveys to students, graduates and those who do not complete their degrees — and conduct student focus groups, said a CGS spokesperson. Additionally, the awardees will survey graduate program directors. All of the data collected will allow stakeholders to better understand reasons for enrollment, factors that contribute to student success and promising practices to improve completion. Insight gained from these activities can help ensure that U.S. graduate schools are preparing the necessary talent at the master’s level in STEM fields to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the council’s spokesperson added.

“As one of the top producers of STEM master’s graduates, Texas A&M is excited about this opportunity to examine the completion and attrition rates of our STEM master’s programs from the institutional-level,” noted  Dr, Karen Butler-Purry, the university’s associate vice president for graduate studies. “This effort is consistent with our university priorities to continuously improve our programs and also to increase our production of domestic and underrepresented minority STEM master’s graduates to meet the growing demand for STEM graduates in the nation and the world.”

In addition to Texas A&M, the research partners in the CGS study are Loyola University, Purdue University, Southern Illinois University and Wright State University.

The institutions, selected by an independent committee, reflect the breadth and depth of U.S. universities offering master’s programs, the CGS representative said. Each institution will receive $30,000 to support its portion of the study.

“A master’s degree in a STEM field often offers a clear pathway to professional employment and career success. In this economy, more than ever, we need to better understand the factors affecting completion and attrition at the master’s level,” said Debra Stewart, CGS president. “This will be the first study of its kind in the United States, and we are delighted to work with these innovative graduate schools on this unique project. The results of this study will be information essential to graduate deans as they foster student achievement in graduate education.”

Additional institutions will be invited to join in the research effort as unfunded project partners, the CGS representative said, adding that the study’s findings will be released in a monograph in 2013. Additionally, a decision will be made whether an in-depth follow-up project on master’s completion and attrition is necessary. CGS officials anticipate that a follow-up project would engage a much larger number of council member institutions to provide completion and attrition data, conduct surveys of entering students, graduates, and non-completers, and implement interventions that are designed to improve outcomes in master’s programs.

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of more than 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. Among U.S. institutions, CGS members award 93 percent of the doctoral degrees and 76 percent of the master’s degrees, according to a 2009 survey. The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research and the development and dissemination of best practices.

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Contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4662


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