PURDUE ENGINEERING EDUCATION DOCTORAL DEGREE PROGRAM BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION APPLICATION: POLICY ANALYSIS

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1 PURDUE ENGINEERING EDUCATION DOCTORAL DEGREE PROGRAM BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR ADMISSION APPLICATION: POLICY ANALYSIS As policymakers across the United States push for the attainment of a bachelor s degree as the standard procedure in education for a more fulfilling life, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a person to stand out from the crowd. The pursuit of higher education is one means to that end. The pursuit of engineering at any level is another means to that end. The pursuit of asking the philosophical questions of why do we do what we do? and how can we make it better? is yet another means to that end. Therefore, a clever individual could kill three birds with one stone by pursuing a doctoral degree in Engineering Education. Several questions surround the pursuit of Engineering Education. What is the process for entering Engineering Education (ENE)? What resources are required to execute this process? How are s attracted? How are s selected? Who are the responsible parties in the selection process and what are their motives? Who else might be positively or negatively affected by this process? What changes might this policy need and what is the process to change this policy? This paper will review the steps of the application process that are visible to applicants for Engineering Education at Purdue University. The policy includes University-wide and departmentspecific policies. Since this paper focuses on an evaluative policy analysis to describe the consequences of an existing policy, I will use the Urban Institute s model of policy analysis [1], where the selection of alternatives is not an initial step of the analysis. The selection process is reminiscent of Vecchio s Are You In or Out with Your Boss? [2, p. 255], so this policy will also be evaluated according to this leadership model. Lastly, I will present justifiable alternatives to the existing process and possible areas for further research. 1

2 ANALYSIS FRAMEWORK One element of analysis in this paper surrounds the policy itself. According to Patton and Sawicki, the Urban Institute developed a model for policy analysis that is useful in this paper. The steps are: 1) Define the Problem; 2) Identify Objectives; 3) Select Evaluation Criteria; 4) Specify Client Group; 5) Identify Alternatives; 6) Estimate Cost of Alternatives; 7) Determine Effectiveness of Alternatives; and 8) Present Findings. This part of the analysis helps answer the questions: What is the process for entering Engineering Education (ENE)? What resources are required to execute this process? How are s attracted? How are s selected? What changes might this policy need and what is the process to change this policy? The policy will be analyzed and evaluated according to each of these steps in the succeeding sections. A second element of analysis in this paper concerns the leadership and responsible parties for this policy. Vecchio presents models of leadership and alternative views of leadership. According to Vecchio, one model of leadership concerns in-groups and out-groups. There are consequences to this classification and there are several responses to this classification, both positive and negative. An alternative view of leadership is the substitution of procedure for leadership [2, p. 363], where the admission procedure could serve as leadership by itself. This part of the analysis helps answer the questions: Who are the responsible parties in the selection process and what are their motives? Who else might be positively or negatively affected by this process? The policy presented here will be evaluated according to these two models. THE POLICY The application and admission policy for Engineering Education at Purdue can be found in a multitude of documents on Purdue s website, as some elements are blanket University-wide policies and some are ENE-department specific. The excerpts below show key elements of the policy related to a s minimum qualifications and expected financial support if accepted. In this analysis, the is assumed to be a US person, but it should be noted that provisions 2

3 are already in place for non-us persons. The consideration for US persons is culturally situated in standing out from the crowd as a motive for pursuing a doctoral degree in Engineering Education. Domestic Applicant Requirements [3]: ENGINEERING EDUCATION WEBSITE 1. Bachelor's or Master's Degree: Required. It should be noted that those with technical degrees other than engineering will be required to take additional engineering coursework if admitted. 2. Undergraduate Cumulative Grade Point Average: 3.0 or equivalent required 3. Master's Degree Completion: Not required 4. Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Required. No minimum score has been set. While exceptions can be sought from the ENE Graduate Committee in very exceptional cases, it should be noted that the GRE scores are often required for fellowship and scholarship consideration. Transferring Credits From Prior Master s [4]: A master's degree or professional doctoral degree from any accredited institution may be considered to contribute up to 30 credit hours toward satisfying this requirement at the discretion of the student s Graduate Advisory Committee. Please note that there are significant restrictions for transferring credits that are more than five years old. GRADUATE SCHOOL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES MANUAL Five-year Rule [5, pp. III-B-5]: Course credits earned by a student whose graduate study and/or professional activity has been inactive for five years or more cannot be used on a plan of study for an advanced degree. A plan of study approved prior to such a period of inactivity is invalid. A preliminary examination passed prior to such a period of inactivity is invalid. A master's degree [5, pp. VI-B-2-c] or professional doctoral degree from any accredited institution may be considered to contribute up to 30 credit hours toward satisfying this requirement at the discretion of the student s graduate program. (The intent of this policy is to provide colleges/schools, departments, and a student's advisory committee with flexibility in determining what credits, up to a maximum of 30, earned from the master's or professional 3

4 doctoral degree can be applied toward the Ph.D. degree. These credit hours are not subject to the "Five-Year Rule" that prohibits the use of out-of-date coursework on plans of study. GRADUATE STUDENT EMPLOYMENT MANUAL Graduate staff [6] appointed as Graduate Teaching Assistants, Graduate Aides, Graduate Research Assistants, or Graduate Administrative/Professional Staff receive a tuition and fee remission each semester and summer session that they are employed. The fee remission relieves the graduate student of obligation to pay full tuition and fees and requires the student to pay the graduate staff fee each session. [Tuition and fee rates for students enrolled in the College of Engineering, College of Technology, School of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Doctor of Audiology, Master of Business Administration, Master of Science (Human Resources), and Master of Science in Industrial Administration (excluding Executive or Community M.S. Programs) include an additional differential fee.] The graduate staff fee and differential fee for these programs is not remittable. FIGURE 1. MINIMUM SALARY PER APPOINTMENT LEVEL ( ) AT PURDUE. PROBLEM, OBJECTIVES, CRITERIA, CLIENT GROUP The major foci of this analysis from the above excerpts are: 1) performance on the GRE test and minimum undergraduate GPA; 2) master s degree stipulations; and 3) expected financial support during a person s time as a student. Depending upon a s existing qualifications 4

5 and life circumstances, these policies can attract or repel a. Attracting or repelling a may or may not be the intended consequence of the policy writers, which are the Graduate Committee and the University. Many other excluded factors can influence a person s decision to pursue higher education. At least one glaring aspect of the pursuit of higher education that I will not address here is the number of years that a person will dedicate to the program. Another aspect not addressed here is the benefits package as a part-time employee, which may include health insurance. While these are important factors, they are much more difficult to quantify as these are more dependent on personal situations and needs. The objectives of this analysis are 1) to quantify how much larger or smaller the pool of s may be if the thresholds were set higher or lower 2) to quantify cost to a student versus being in the workforce and the cost to the university and 3) recommend a justifiable alternative to the existing policy to increase the number of applicants to ENE at Purdue. The criteria for this analysis include: Engineering degrees awarded and engineering students enrolled; US persons; average salaries as compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and financial data as published by Purdue. These items were chosen because of the relative ease of finding these quantities from reliable sources, as a studious and fiscally prudent would research when pondering application to a higher education program. The client groups, or people affected by these policies, include: potential applicants; current students in ENE; the Graduate Committee; advising professors in ENE; and the University s Graduate School. People indirectly affected by these policies include: families of potential applicants; taxpayers whose money supports the University; and the workforce, both private and academic, who may stand to gain or lose valuable labor associated with potential applicants entering or exiting the workforce. 5

6 ALTERNATIVE 1: CHANGE GPA AND GRE REQUIREMENTS The overall GPA in the US is around 3.0 [7]. The number of full-time enrolled engineering US-based undergraduate students in the US for Fall 2011 is 437,874 [8] (taking total enrollment number and subtracting out nonresident alien numbers). The number of bachelor s degrees awarded to that population in engineering in 2011 was 77,440 (taking total award number and multiplying by percentage domestic population number). If I assume a normal distribution of GPA around the average, then half of the undergraduate population (38,720) meets the 3.0 GPA cut-off for ENE application. The cost of the GRE test is $150 and four hours of test time. There is an unmeasured amount of time spent in preparation for the exam if a opts for a preparation course or to review preparation material. The need to take the GRE test seems to be linked to fellowship and scholarship applications. If a funds his education through teaching assistance and research assistance, then fellowships and scholarships do not have much meaning. Assuming same or higher numbers of graduating bachelor s engineering students every year, the pool of s with a 3.0 GPA or higher is already very large. Lowering the GPA requirement would probably not open doors for a greater number of interested s. The cost of the GRE test to the is not a small dollar amount or time commitment. Its link to the selection process is weak, given that there is no minimum acceptable score defined. There is no engineering-specific GRE test like there is for physics and chemistry, nor is there a GRE test that could be linked to research in the social sciences or education. It would be difficult to argue to switch from the general GRE to a subject-specific GRE. Eliminating this requirement would alleviate some stress on potential s, but it would also give the Graduate Committee pause on the seriousness of a s commitment. It may be best to make the GRE optional to an applicant. 6

7 ALTERNATIVE 2: CHANGE MASTER S DEGREE REQUIREMENTS The number of full-time enrolled engineering US-based master s students in the US for Fall 2011 is 62,434 (taking total enrollment number and subtracting out nonresident alien numbers). The number of master s degrees awarded to that population in 2011 was 26,098 (taking total award number and multiplying by percentage domestic population number). This population of degree holders is 1/3 smaller than the bachelor s degree holders, but still not a small number. This population would not find any trouble in the pursuit of an ENE PhD because of the 5 year rule. The population of engineering bachelor s degree holders who are currently pursuing a master s degree finds the rules concerning the transfer of credits a little difficult to navigate, with a little-consoling interpretive note from ENE about significant restrictions. Must the transfer credits be less than 5 years old if a has not completed a master s degree? How is the completion of a master s degree any different from transferring credits? Does the completion of a master s degree imply that somehow the subject matter remains active in a s career? Must the credits be in engineering, or could the credits come from business? The current trend among ENE students is to present their committee with the credits they have earned for a committee decision on currency of the credits. One recommendation to the University-wide policy is to open up the definition of inactivity to 10 years, for example, at least for engineering. This could be a large impact if the policy were reconsidered for all majors to be 10 years. Or it could be a smaller impact if it were considered only for engineering, or even a smaller impact if it were considered only for Engineering Education. Another recommendation to ENE is to require a full completion of a technical masters degree instead of not requiring a master s degree. This would come at the cost of 2 years of a s life and that many years of less than average income. This might also manifest itself as a two year lull of s applying to ENE if the requirement were implemented. This 7

8 recommendation would probably result in a flood of inquiries into the best technical master s degree to pursue in preparation for an ENE application. ALTERNATIVE 3: CHANGE FINANCIAL SUPPORT OFFER Figure 1 above is extracted from the Graduate Student Employment Manual. Research assistants and teaching assistants have the same minimum salary for the same appointment level CUL stands for Capacity Utilization Level CUL represents an expected 40 labor hours per week. For a CUL Fiscal Year appointment, a minimum salary of $31,656 is 30% less than the national average of $45,230 [9] and 4.6% less than the national average for graduate teaching assistants. The cost of graduate nonresident tuition is $14,913 [10] per fall or spring semester. From the University perspective, it is spending $46,569 a year in tuition and salary per, well aligned with national average salary in the workforce. From the graduate student perspective, a person is collecting 30% less than he might in private industry, with the sinking feeling that he will still have to find a job once he is finished with his studies. A considerable number of students are at the CUL, which implies 20 hours a week of teaching assistance or research assistance, and unpaid time in their own classes. The minimum salary is below poverty level and therefore extremely unattractive compared to working in private industry. The most attractive solution to most s is the increasing of the minimum salary at the CUL to a value linked to the cost of living (without a roommate) at or near the University. This recommendation, if publicized, would effectively drive artificial inflation of the cost of living, so it might be best done with little fanfare. The University would definitely balk at this suggestion since the mandate has been made to freeze tuition for the next two years [11]. 8

9 SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATION OF ALTERNATIVES This policy analysis process (and others) looks similar to several engineering design processes. Therefore, it is only a small jump to include decision-making tools from design processes into policy analysis processes. The objective of a decision matrix is to calculate a score more objectively calculated for the goodness of a solution as compared to the other possible solutions. It shows all the specifications, the possible solutions, and how well each of the solutions meets the specifications. The relatively high-scoring solutions should be considered more thoroughly for possible recommendation and implementation. The above comments in each of the Alternative discussions have been translated below into a decision matrix (Figure 2). The relative weights have been assigned by me, which is a rather subjective assignment. The weights represent the influence of each of the Client Group Criteria on increasing the number of applicants. The ranks of each of the alternatives have also been assigned by me, which would ideally come from each of the interested parties. I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of being an insider interviewing policy/process owners and critiquing policies that have direct impact on my likeability as a graduate student. Therefore, an example or explanation for each rank is supplied to the right hand side of the decision matrix, which hopefully represents how each interested party would view each alternative. From the relative scores in the decision matrix, the alternative that might present the least amount of resistance and the most amount of acceptance from all interested parties is the relaxing of the Masters courses expiration date. The alternative that might meet with the most resistance because of the increased cost and time to most of the interested parties is the lowering of the undergraduate GPA. Interestingly, the increasing of the financial support balances to nearly neutral because of the host of university parties that would bear the cost of paying graduate students more money. On an individual level, more salary is more motivation for considering graduate school, but finding more money in the employer s pockets is always difficult. 9

10 A further investigation of the best alternative of relaxing the Masters courses expiration date due to inactivity would be to count the number of existing students and the number of applicants for whom this date has passed. Knowing the relative impact to the and student populations could be the deciding factor on implementation of this alternative. 10

11 Client Group Criteria Relative Weight Change GPA Requirement (Lower) Change GRE Requirement (Eliminate) Change Master's Degree Requirement (Increase Inactivity Cutoff) Change Master's Degree Requirement (Require) Change Financial Support Offer (Increase) Change GPA Requirement (Lower) Change GRE Requirement (Eliminate) Change Master's Degree Requirement (Increase Inactivity Cutoff) Change Master's Degree Requirement (Require) Change Financial Support Offer (Increase) Applicant Financial Investment to undergradu ate studies saves study time, testtaking time relaxed rule for older 2 years not earning fulltime salary recover some salary Applicant Time Investment Current Student Financial Investment Current Student Time Investment Advisor Financial Investment Advisor Time Investment Graduate Committee Financial Investment Graduate Committee Time Investment Graduate School Financial Investment Graduate School Time Investment Total Score to undergradu saves test ate studies cost to accepted student to accepted student to recruiting costs more time spent increase in increase in increase in increase in relaxed rule for older to accepted relaxed rule student may apply to accepted relaxed rule student may apply to recruiting costs more time spent increase in increase in reduced time to evaluate reduced time to evaluate "rusty" student may need more time "rusty" student may need more time to recruiting cost increase in "rusty" student may need more time "rusty" student may need more time 2 years of school increased time (salary lost) for nonmasters holders increased calendar time for nonmasters holders 30 less credit hours to support 30 less credit hours to support to recruiting cost assume "more qualified" assume "more qualified" assume "more qualified" to time in grad school recover some salary to time in grad school advisor may fund support grant application process unchanged support funding efforts support funding efforts does not agree with tuition freeze support funding efforts Relative Weights Rank Scale of 1 to 9, where 9 is highest priority Scale of -1, 0, 1 = worse,, better FIGURE 2. DECISION MATRIX FOR THE ALTERNATIVES TO THE CURRENT POLICY. 11

12 LEADERSHIP FOR POLICY CHANGE IN ENE Selecting s into the Engineering Education PhD Program weighs heavily on the minds and hearts of advisors and the Graduate Committee. The expectation from graduate students on advisors has evolved strictly from advising to mentoring [12]. Vecchio describes the in-group as the boss s trusted assistants, who are given considerable responsibility, support, and encouragement. The support and encouragement aspects of the in-group align very well with the mentoring aspect of advisors, whereas the responsibility aspect of the in-group aligns well with the advising aspect of the advisors. The result of having a feeling of in-ness is real performance by the subordinates, which are the graduate students. The best time to manage the in or out phenomenon is very early in a person s employment. The very earliest in a graduate student s employment could be the selection process. Knowing this about the increased chance of success with a feeling of belonging to the group, advisors and the Graduate Committee then have the responsibility as the process owners to create and manage the in-group feeling. Some steps have been taken toward this goal, which includes a wealth of information online and an open house for face-to-face interaction between s and advisors. A possible step backward might be the delaying of matching newly accepted students with research groups in their first semester. The in-group would need to be redefined from a research group with a particular advisor to the new student cohort and the ENE program in general. Groups are easier to manage when they are small, and an incoming cohort may be too large for the Graduate Committee to instill the sense of in-ness. The advisors and the Graduate Committee have a responsibility to ponder the impact of their programmatic changes. While there exists a wealth of information online for a to review, there also exists a possibility of letting the words of the policy itself become a substitute for leadership. Vecchio [2, p. 370]presents work by Howell, Bowen, Dorfman, Kerr, and Podsakoff where they show that 12

13 Substitutes by Procedure may be used to solve organizational problems. Detailed work rules, guidelines, policies, and procedures serve to some extent as substitutes by providing important non-leader sources of task guidance. The policy and process owners in ENE should remain aware that an unsuspecting may see so many written policies as hard and fast rules which cannot be bent or broken for a good cause. Leaders in ENE should take the initiative to personally interact with a and to fight the good fight for a promising. FUTURE RESEARCH QUESTIONS For the policy of basic requirements for admission to the ENE program, an area for further investigation includes analyzing the number of students who would be impacted by the suggested alternatives and from there if implementation of these alternatives would significantly increase the number of applicants. A second area of research includes the investigation of the impact of the benefits package associated with part-time employment at the university (or other indirect costs and benefits) to a s decision to apply to the program. On a more qualitative level, research questions could investigate what factors have impact on a s decision to apply and how do they manage that impact. CONCLUSION Overall, the basic requirements to the Engineering Education PhD Program at Purdue have been tuned to filter and encourage high-performing individuals to apply to the program. The leadership within the ENE Program is well aware of their mentoring responsibilities to attract and support incoming students. Overall, the admission process is not a roadblock to a student s interest in applying to the program. 13

14 BIBLIOGRAPHY [1] C. V. Patton and D. S. Sawicki, Basic Methods of Policy Analysis and Planning, Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, [2] R. Vecchio, Leadership: Understanding the Dynamics of Power and Influence in Organizations, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, [3] Purdue Graduate School, "Engineering Education, West Lafayette," [Online]. Available: [Accessed 20 March 2013]. [4] Engineering Education, "Degree Requirements for the PhD - School of Engineering Education, Purdue University," [Online]. Available: https://engineering.purdue.edu/ene/academics/graduate/phdreq. [Accessed 20 March 2013]. [5] Purdue Graduate School, Purdue University, "Purdue University Graduate School, West Lafayette, Indiana," October [Online]. Available: Procedures%20Manual.pdf. [6] Purdue Graduate School, Purdue University, "Purdue University Graduate School, West Lafayette, Indiana," February [Online]. Available: [7] S. Rojstaczer and C. Healy, "Where A Is Ordinary: The Evolution of American College and University Grading, ," Teachers College Record, pp. 1-23, [8] American Society for Engineering Education, "Profiles of Engineering & Engineering Technology Colleges," ASEE, Washington DC, [9] US Bureau of Labor Statistics, "May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates," 20 March [Online]. Available: [1 0] [1 1] [1 2] Bursar's Office, "Bursar West Lafayette - Tuition and Fees ," 20 March [Online]. Available: Office of the President, "Office of the President - Message from the President," 18 March [Online]. Available: P. Vesilind, "Mentoring Engineering Students: Turning Pebbles into Diamonds," Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 90, pp ,

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