UMN's graduate programs face 'right-sizing' in tough times





Faced with its own money troubles, the University of Minnesota is turning away more graduate students who would get financial help such as teaching positions. Still welcome are those who pay their own way or pursue in-demand studies such as biomedical sciences....

Graduate education "is what makes this a research university," said Prof. Jeffrey Pilcher, director of graduate studies for the Department of History. "It reflects on the quality of the faculty and is crucial for the teaching mission."

Even so, more changes are coming: The U is studying whether shrinking the number of Ph.D. students could be a good thing. They might get more attention in their fields, present their research at more conferences and leave with better job prospects....

For the History Department, the squeeze will be seen by students taking introductory courses this fall.

The department expects 14 graduate students -- down from a high of 23 a few years ago.

As a result, an intro class that had once two lecture hours led by a professor and two discussion hours taught by teaching assistants -- called "TAs" -- will now rely on professors for three hours and TAs for one. The size of those discussion sections will increase.

That will give undergrads more time with faculty but "much less individual attention," said Joanna DeLaune, a history teaching assistant.

It makes for a tough year, Pilcher said. But eventually, the number of students, professors and TAs will align, he said. "Long-term, this will mean a smaller department."...


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