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Erika Biga Lee
University Graduate School

Last modified: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Commission calls for maintaining U.S. pre-eminence in graduate education

April 29, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A landmark report released today (April 29) confirms the necessity of a graduate-level workforce to maintain U.S. competiveness and innovation while warning that the country must adopt a national strategy to increase degree completion and broaden participation in graduate education.

The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States calls on government, universities and industry to work together to ensure that U.S. graduate schools remain preeminent and that more U.S. citizens begin and complete graduate degree programs.

James Wimbush image

Chris Meyer

James Wimbush

Print-Quality Photo

The report was produced by the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education, an 18-member group made up of university and industry leaders. James Wimbush, dean of the University Graduate School at Indiana University, is one of seven graduate school deans to serve on the commission.

"The report makes it clear that graduate education is going to be increasingly important in the future," Wimbush said. "This report is a wake-up call to the nation that action needs to be taken now to provide opportunities for more talented individuals to attend graduate school. The U.S. is losing its competitive edge in training graduate students, and the country will soon start to fall behind in its production of talented students in areas of critical need."

The report says that U.S. pre-eminence is threatened by growing international competition, demographic changes in the college-age population, and budget constraints. It contends that graduate education remains the engine of a highly skilled workforce, yet is vulnerable on several fronts.

  • The number of U.S. jobs that require a graduate degree is estimated to grow by 2.5 million by 2018, including a 17 percent increase in those requiring a doctorate and 18 percent in those requiring a master's degree.
  • While underrepresented minorities are the fastest-growing segment of the population, students from these groups currently begin and complete college at far lower rates than majority students.
  • Internationally, the U.S. share of the global international student market has shrunk since 2000, and competition abroad is increasing. Potential international graduate students have more options today.

The report, released at a forum at the U.S. Capitol, includes findings and recommendations targeted to three sectors: policymakers, universities and employers.

"The recommendations focus on removing hurdles for talented individuals to go to graduate school," Wimbush said. "And for federal policy makers, the report suggests initiatives to increase funding opportunities, training opportunities and loan forgiveness programs. It also has important implications for universities -- to help them attract talented students and help the students complete their degrees."

The report calls on employers to develop more partnerships with universities and governments, collaborate with universities to define entry points into careers and skills needed for 21st-century jobs, and provide internships and work-study opportunities for graduate students.

"IU is already working on some of the recommendations in the report, such as developing professional master's degree programs, recruiting talented students to graduate programs and providing funding to help students complete their degrees," Wimbush said. "But there is still much more for us to do and consider in order to be prepared for the future needs of our nation."

The Commission on the Future of Graduate education was formed in 2009 by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Educational Testing Service to study how graduate education can meet the challenges of the 21st century. The report can be seen online at