CHICAGO — The University of California, Santa Cruz is facing a tough few years going forward. With state tuitions frozen for the next few years and yearly costs increasing 6 percent, searching for out-of-the-box strategies to increase enrollment-based state funding and tuition revenue has been a forefront project for the campus. In a session at the annual convention for the Society of College and University Planning, Tyrus Miller, vice provost for UCSC; Peggy Delaney, vice chancellor of planning and budget for UCSC; and Alison Galloway, Ph.D., campus provost and executive vice chancellor for UCSC, laid out their plan for increasing master’s and doctoral student enrollment from 10 to 15 percent of campus enrollment by 2020.

UCSC, which is a highly respected research university, ranking first in the world for research influence by Times Higher Education in 2014, currently enrolls 15,730 undergraduate students and only 1,546 graduate students. This breaks out to a population of master’s students that are only 8 percent of UCSC’s total enrollment and a doctoral population of only 6.7 percent of the total enrollment, about half of the University of California–wide average. The original vision of the campus, when it was chartered in 1963, was to have 15 percent total graduate enrollment within ten years, and 40 percent within 30 years. “Our campus physical design reinforces this vision,” Miller said, explaining that the clusters of departments scattered throughout the campus create an insulated world for each department to focus on its area of expertise. This helps build a community where graduate students can be mentored by their chosen faculty advisor amidst the gorgeous redwood trees. 

Finding unique partnerships builds programs

One effort that UCSC has undertaken to appeal to undergraduates looking to get their master’s or doctoral degree has been to either bring together departments on campus or partner with other institutions to create new degree programs. For example, in 2014 UCSC implemented the first joint bachelor of arts and juris doctorate program in the country to run a total of six years. By partnering with the University of California, Hastings College of Law, students enroll in a six-year program, upon completion of which they will be conferred both a BA and a JD. This shaves a year off the traditional law school and undergraduate path, saving students both tuition costs and time, and ensuring that UCSC’s graduate enrollment programs see a bump. “Students must be driven on this path,” Miller said, adding that although there are challenges to an accelerated program, students have been excited to enroll. 

UCSC has also developed an extension program based in Silicon Valley. And Galloway explained that the campus is looking to leverage its proximity to Silicon Valley and potentially create future certifications and pipeline programs to feed into jobs and internships, making the campus more attractive to potential undergraduate and graduate prospective students. The Silicon Valley extension campus offers free networking events and webinars for career preparedness for enrolled students. The extension campus offers certifications and courses in accounting, biotechnology, education and computer programming, among others, as well as a bevy of online courses.

Other efforts include pairing departments, such as game design and engineering, to work together to develop potential master’s degrees. Miller explained that recruiting from within the student population is one of the major shifts UCSC wants to make. To do that, officials need to develop programs specific to undergraduate needs and desires. Tying together existing programs also helps to pool funding for graduate programs and resources, Miller explained. Miller said that officials creating new programs will consider offering joint undergraduate and graduate degrees, decreasing total student time to receive a master’s degree. Miller and Galloway have worked to create faculty cluster groups to brainstorm and implement new graduate degree programs and possibilities. This has the added benefit of keeping faculty invested in building these programs on top of their already stretched workload.

The campus has already seen success with the new joint programs. New admittances to master’s and doctoral programs have risen from 376 students to 576 students since 2012. Specifically, 160 of these have been master’s students, doubling the number of students admitted to master’s programs since 2012, and 120 students accepted for doctoral programs, an 11 percent increase since 2012. 

Focus on whole-campus benefits to foster graduate program growth

Although these results have been very healthy and UCSC’s leadership team looks forward to more growth in the future, getting faculty buy-in for programs hasn’t always been easy. “None of our faculty are here just for graduate students,” Galloway said, citing examples of other universities where faculty members might be drawn to the potential of working with master’s and doctoral students to increase and support their own research. Galloway explained that working with undergraduates provides a very different experience than working with graduate students. UCSC faculty in particular are dedicated to working with undergraduate students, Galloway said. Another obstacle is that some departments are more committed to applying for grants than others, Galloway said. That means some departments have trouble funding research teams that include master’s and Ph.D. students. 

“We were also facing external factors forcing us to evolve our campus culture,” Delaney said. “We’re seeing a higher number of undergraduate applications, which could potentially throw our ratios off even more. We’re also facing budget cuts,” Delaney said, citing that the campus is facing a 6 percent cost increase each year, with only a commensurate 3 percent increase in state funding. “We’re also facing a mandate to grow across the University of California system.”

Galloway, Miller and Delaney worked to overcome these obstacles by focusing on the larger picture of what a larger graduate student enrollment would mean for the campus. Enhancing UCSC’s graduate and doctoral program offerings would do much more for the campus than simply boost enrollment and state funding. Having a higher percentage of graduate and doctoral students on campus could potentially help reduce some workload for faculty by having graduate students take on positions as teaching assistants and research assistants, which would in turn help students afford graduate school. Galloway has also worked on an initiative to tie incentives for department chairs and deans to efforts to recruit graduate students and grow graduate programs. “Our master’s incentive program returns money to deans and department chairs who help us recruit and grow graduate enrollment,” Galloway said.

While UCSC is a highly renowned research university, it has built its reputation as such without the full support of master’s or doctoral students, who often help professors conduct research and write papers. Building a strong graduate and doctoral program and community has a twofold benefit for the campus: It helps to attract the best and brightest of adult learners and it also helps to retain talented and renowned faculty. The faculty get the chance to work with up-and-coming students, and the students will conduct research that helps UCSC maintain its position as a major research university.

Source: Recruiting & Retaining Adult Learners