Review of master’s programs underway

As the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences undertakes a comprehensive review of its terminal master’s programs, the funding arrangements those programs have with the school may change.

Though master’s students pay tuition to the Graduate School — unlike Ph.D. students, who are guaranteed five years of full financial support — the Graduate School typically keeps most of the students’ tuition payments and gives a percentage back to their respective programs. But the percentage that various programs receive varies widely, administrators said, and six of eight directors of graduate studies for master’s programs interviewed said they were unclear on their programs’ current financial arrangements with the Graduate School. In an effort to “regularize” the amount of funding from tuition fees that each program receives, administrators are gathering data on programs’ various financial arrangements with the Graduate School, Deputy Provost for Social Sciences and Faculty Development Frances Rosenbluth said in an email.

“Of course we don’t want masters programs to be cash cows that expand without regard to academic standards,” Rosenbluth said. “But apparently there is, for historical reasons, considerable variation across programs in the particular deals with the Graduate School, so they will all be scrutinized and compared.”

The Statistics Department is one example of a department that has concerns about its tuition income arrangement. David Pollard, director of graduate studies for statistics, said professors in the department previously believed they had an arrangement with the Graduate School that would fund the department to support an additional Ph.D. student if it attracted a sufficient number of master’s students. As some master’s students in statistics are later admitted to Yale’s Ph.D. program, Pollard said the department could benefit from using its tuition income to support the doctoral program.

Though statistics brought in higher numbers of master’s students in recent years — as many as 20 in 2010 — Pollard said extra support for the department’s Ph.D. students “never actually materialized.” Pollard said he is uncertain whether such an arrangement formally existed, but he added that there has been “disenchantment” among professors who felt the growth of the program should be rewarded.

Three directors of graduate studies said that, to their knowledge, their programs do not receive any income from tuition paid by master’s students. Three others said they were uninformed about the matter.

Michael McGovern, director of graduate studies for African studies, said his program receives some tuition funding that, under an agreement with the Graduate School, “more or less automatically” goes toward foreign language and area studies scholarships. He said the additional funding allows the scholarships, which are available for students whose academic work includes foreign study and have career plans such as teaching, public service or business related to area studies, to cover 100 percent of tuition for students receiving them.

William Summers, director of graduate studies for the History of Science and Medicine Program, said he is unfamiliar with the policy governing what percentage of tuition income his program receives. Summers added that his program has so few master’s students that tuition income from them “has not been of much concern.”

Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard said in a Tuesday email that the school began researching tuition income arrangements in the fall, and will discuss potential changes with master’s programs and University administrators before the start of the 2012-’13 academic year. He added that financial plans for the various programs were created over a number of years and that each “has its own history and rationale.”

Associate Dean of the Graduate School Richard Sleight said in a Wednesday email that the study of master’s programs’ finances is part of a larger review of all aspects of Yale’s master’s programs.

The Graduate School has 24 terminal master’s degree programs.