Grad and prof. programs to get new classification

Christopher Aadland

After years of discussion, the way graduate and professional programs at the University of Minnesota are classified is set to be revamped.
 
The new classification will better distinguish between graduate and professional programs at the University — a distinction that has been unclear for some students.
 
How a program is classified could potentially impact what kind of financial support a student receives and what requirements they must abide by while a student at the school.
 
Many of the changes are not yet known, but according to a draft plan, research-based degrees like Masters of Arts and Masters of Science in every major would fall under the graduate school. Meanwhile, most professional degrees would stay classified as they are.
 
A 2013 University report on the state of graduate education highlighted the need to better distinguish between the two types of post-baccalaureate education at the University.  Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Karen Hanson began to work on clarifying the classifications shortly after.
 
“Dividing programs into graduate education or professional education obscures the similarities across all of post-baccalaureate education and obscures the dramatic diversity that exists between programs within these two ambiguous categories,” the report said. 
 
Hanson said the new structure would mirror the practices at other institutions.
 
“Since I came here, we’ve had a number of institutional issues with the schools being concerned about how their programs were classified — whether or not they were regarded as in or out of the graduate school,” she said.
 
Professional students are often considered those working toward a specific job in their program, like medicine or law, whereas graduate students tend to be more focused on research and teaching while enrolled, said Andrew McNally, the outgoing president of the Council of Graduate Students.
 
Hanson said professional students often face stricter requirements to be certified in their field by taking specific classes and passing licensure exams.
 
Outgoing Faculty Consultative Committee chair Rebecca Ropers-Huilman said the proposed structure would help programs better tailor their policies to students now that they will be classified correctly, adding that professional and graduate students usually have different needs and goals.
 
“The professional students and graduate students are very different types of students,” said Kyle Kroll, president of the Professional Student Government. “When you have these differences, but you try to lump them, it tends to sometimes send conflicting messages; sometimes people don’t get the right kind of information.”
 
To make the proposed changes, Hanson said her office consulted faculty and student governments to help clarify what needed modification. 
 
While Hanson said most graduate and professional students shouldn’t be impacted, for those that are, the difference will be profound. Health insurance, financial aid and student services vary depending on what type of program a student is enrolled in, she said.
 
The new structure should be in place by this fall, and shouldn’t cost anything to implement, Hanson said.