Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Special Research Report: Selecting a Graduate Program in Adult and Continuing Education

Academic journal article Journal of Adult Education

Special Research Report: Selecting a Graduate Program in Adult and Continuing Education

Article excerpt

The selection of a graduate program is important to both students and faculty. Students invest significant time, money, energy, and hope in their programs, while faculty need to ensure the survival of their programs through steady or increasing enrollments. This article briefly addresses both viewpoints. First, the results of an informal survey of graduate students provide faculty with insights into how students select their institutions and graduate degree programs. Then, questions presented as part of a workshop conducted at the annual conference of the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association give prospective students valuable criteria for deciding on an institution and program of study.

Importance of Selection Process for Students and Faculty

A degree program is an opportunity to pursue lifelong goals and career advancement. The selection of a program, however, can often be made lightly. Bear (1995) quotes a prosecutor at the trial of a state psychologist with a phony doctorate: "Some people spend more time deciding which soda to buy from a soft drink machine than they do in choosing the school where they will earn their degrees" (p. 31). The personal and professional significance of a degree and the investment necessary to obtain it would seem to mandate a more careful selection of both the university and program. To begin, a degree will cost students "several thousand dollars or more" (Bear, p. 32). In addition to their investment of money, students will sacrifice time potentially spent in leisure pursuits or with family, and postpone other goals in life all in to order to pursue the goal of advanced academic achievement.

For faculty the most pragmatic and pressing issue is one of enrollments. Simply, for graduate programs to survive, they need students. As Knox (1991) states, "Without participants instructors and administrators would be unnecessary" (p. 233). Peters and Kreitlow (1991) also focus on the need for students, citing recruitment as one of the problems with which members of the Commission of Professors of Adult Education should assist one another (p. 177). They profile the growth and decline of adult education graduate programs around the country since the 1960s. Following a period of growth, the number of institutions reporting doctorates and the number of people reporting having received doctorates each year "have leveled off and declined slightly since the early eighties" (p. 147).

Peters and Kreitlow (1991) further highlight the issue of continued employment for faculty: "in a field of study that is new and not entirely understood, such as adult education, time spent in studying what it takes for a program to grow in higher education would be time well spent. . . .[this study] could result in lessons from which professors learn to survive"(p. 168). Although sounding as though faculty are motivated solely by a concern for individual futures, the author believes there is also an equal concern on the part of faculty to ensure the future of their field of study, of the continued preparation of leaders and scholars in lifelong learning.

How Students Select Their Universities and Programs of Study

In the fall of 1997, an informal survey was conducted with students in three graduate classes of the Department of Educational Leadership at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The purpose of the survey was to begin gathering information on how students determine their choice of institution and degree program, thus providing insights helpful to both adult learners and adult education faculty. Fifteen of the 26 students who responded to the survey were enrolled in the adult and community education doctoral program, and six in the masters degree program. Three were working toward a masters in executive development, one was working toward a vocational director's license, and one had not yet been admitted into a degree program. All survey questions were open-ended, with the resulting narrative responses categorized according to their common elements. …

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