When Dixie Thompson took over as vice provost and dean of the Graduate School in 2016, she quickly discovered a roadblock: the lack of easy access to good data to help guide those involved in recruiting and retaining graduates.
While data were available, getting it could be complicated and time consuming.
Working with the Office of Information Technology, Thompson and her team have been pulling data from a myriad of campus systems and putting it in usable form for faculty and staff.
The result is the Graduate Blueprint, a website that makes online drill-down reports about our graduate student population available for faculty and staff to use.
The dashboard provides a look at the life cycle of our graduate students: admission, enrollment, support, success, and placement.
The Admissions module provides detailed information about applicants to our graduate programs. The information allows departments to see the types of students who are applying and being admitted into their programs. This information will help them examine trends over time and evaluate the success of recruitment initiatives.
The Enrollment module provides a profile of enrolled students. Departments can use this data to examine enrollment trends and determine capacity for growth.
The Support module looks at the types of financial support provided to graduate and professional students, including stipend levels, fellowship support, tuition assistance, and student loans.
Each module includes detailed reports using SAS Visual Analytics. Because of the detailed and sensitive information accessed in the Graduate Blueprint, it is not available publicly. Faculty and staff within colleges and departments are given login access to view data related to their academic units.
Two modules will be coming in the months ahead. The Success module will provide data such as students’ time to degree and attrition rates, and the Placement module will look at where our students go after graduating.
Online Education Changes
The UT Board of Trustees in March approved a reduced out-of-state tuition structure for distance education students.
In the past, out-of-state students taking online-only programs had to pay full out-of-state tuition. This put us at a disadvantage for recruiting, because UT was more expensive than many other online programs.
This year, for graduate students, the maintenance fee and out-of-state tuition for all-online programs was reduced from $1,637 to $701, a 57 percent reduction.
We currently offer 14 master’s degree programs (not including the individual concentrations), one post-master’s degree program, three doctoral programs, and one advanced standing bachelor’s degree program (RN to BSN) online. We estimate there are between 1,100 and 1,200 students in our online graduate and professional programs, including the RN to BSN program.
Of these, approximately 11 percent are from outside the state of Tennessee. Our hope is that this new tuition model will encourage more nonresident students to enroll in online programs. We plan to continue growing enrollment in our online programs, and this tuition change is essential for meeting our goals.
In the year ahead, an additional $1 million will be used to increase the minimum stipend levels of graduate students on assistantships. This much-needed boost will allow us to increase minimum stipends for the first time since 2002.
Details of the increases are still being worked out between the Graduate School and the individual colleges. Graduate assistants make critically important contributions to our teaching and research mission. It is imperative that we compensate them in ways that will allow us to recruit and retain exceptional graduate students.