Regents to hear graduate, professional students’ issues

Molly Moker

Although University officials said the institution focuses a lot of attention on the undergraduate student experience, some said there’s another group of students that needs more support.

That group – graduate and professional students – makes up approximately one-third of the University’s student population, or 17,000 students, said Victor Bloomfield, interim dean of the Graduate School.

Bloomfield will present a graduate and professional student update to the Board of Regents today. The presentation will detail how the University can make graduate and professional education more affordable, what new resources might support graduate and professional education, and how child care and family issues can be addressed.

Bloomfield said graduate and professional students are valuable to the University, receiving 40 percent of the institution’s degrees each year.

Although applications to the Graduate School have remained fairly consistent during the last five years, at approximately 12,000 to 13,000 per year, Bloomfield said, these students are a crucial component to the University, and more effort should be focused on recruiting them.

The University should focus most on biological sciences programs, such as the Medical School, Bloomfield said.

The total number of enrolled graduate students has slowly but steadily increased, Bloomfield said.

Increases have happened for a number of reasons, which could include students taking slightly longer to receive degrees and fewer students withdrawing from programs, Bloomfield said.

Currently, international students make up 25 percent of Graduate School enrollment.

The number of international students who applied to the school sharply increased in 2002 but has decreased since then, he said.

Bloomfield said a decline in numbers of international graduate student applications has happened at other institutions nationally.

But so far this year, international graduate student applications are up. For October and November, applications were up 25 percent from the same months in 2003, he said.

Housing and research

For Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President Abu Jalal, student housing for graduate and professional students is a concern. Jalal will present a student perspective to the Board of Regents at today’s meeting.

“Most of the housing for graduate students is in St. Paul, and there is pretty much nothing in Minneapolis,” Jalal said. “With the number of students, we need a support system.”

One of the main components of being a graduate or professional student is networking, Jalal said. There would be better opportunities to do that in housing specific to that student demographic, he said.

Jalal said the University should consider buying houses near campus and turning them into graduate student housing.

Also, the lack of funding for the University is detrimental to research, Jalal said.

“I think the University of Minnesota will find it hard to attract quality members to the University and maintain them,” Jalal said. “I think it’s becoming a big problem.”

Jalal said one of his economics professors left last year partly because he felt the University was not putting enough importance on the program.

Jerry Rinehart, associate vice provost for the Office of Student Affairs, said there are opportunities the University can and should be providing for graduate and professional students.

He said that although graduate and professional students are more dedicated to their studies and don’t necessarily have time for the more social type of events and programs offered to undergraduate students, better housing and financial aid are issues the University should be committed to addressing.