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UA eyes pockets of graduate students

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The number of graduate and professional students at the UA should rise significantly in the next few years, but the number of undergraduate students who enroll should taper off. Peggy Ota, the vice president for Enrollment Management, said the UA would like to see graduate students make up about 25 percent of the student body.
By Laura Ory
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
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Grads expected to bring in research, tuition dollars

The freshman class will maintain its current number of enrolled students in upcoming years as administrators begin satiating their enrollment appetite with graduate students who can bring the UA more prestige.

While the university plans to cap enrollment at 40,000 students by 2010, officials want graduate and professional students to make up 25 percent of the student body, said Peggy Ota, vice president of Enrollment Management.

The enrollment cap was decided with the help of Ayers/Saint/Gross Architects and Planners, a consultant firm, which determined the capacity of full-time students the university could hold within the UA's growth boundaries set by the City of Tucson, Ota said.

There are 6,850 graduate and professional students at the UA, not including medical school enrollment, Ota said. The Enrollment Management Policy Group would like to see that number increase to 10,000 within the next 10 years, she said.

By beefing up the number of graduate students, the UA will have to keep the number of undergraduates enrolled close to the same numbers that were enrolled this semester, about 6,000 for new freshman and 2,000 for transfer students, Ota said.

As the number of graduate students increases, the enrollment cap will allow the UA to increase its research possibilities by 80 percent, according to the 2003 Comprehensive Campus Plan.

There will be more teaching and research assistants who can help facilitate undergraduate courses, Ota said. After these students graduate, the state will benefit as more pharmacy and medical school professionals enter the workforce, she said.

As the UA becomes more research oriented, the university's reputation and the value of its degrees will have more prestige, Ota said.

"Students will want to go to a school whose academic quality is increasing," Ota said. "In 20 years, employers are not going to ask what the reputation of a school was 20 years ago, but they'll know if it has a strong reputation currently."

But though the plan sounds like a positive move, some graduate members said it's going to be difficult to achieve without a dean to lead efforts in the Graduate College.

In the meantime, the Graduate College is examining its programs with other college deans to analyze the academic quality of the graduate programs in order to attract prospective graduate students, said Leslie Tolbert, head of the search committee for the new Graduate College dean.

"New programs will be offered where needed, and weak programs will be examined and eventually phased out," Tolbert said.

Elaine Ulrich, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, said without a dean, she hasn't seen the university do much to increase graduate student enrollment.

"We need more applicants so they can choose the best," said Ulrich, a member of the Financial Committee's enrollment planning work group.

Ulrich said when a Graduate College dean is chosen, she hopes the college's recruitment initiatives will be addressed and resolved.

The new dean will face the challenge of increasing the graduate college's support of its top students, said Tolbert, vice president of research for graduate studies and economic development.

After a dean is chosen and the enrollment plans are put into effect, the UA will need to address the issue of how to maintain financial stability because the state Legislature has cut funds that the UA receives in recent years, Ota said.

Ota said maintaining financial stability while increasing enrollment of graduate students will affect tuition rates, financial aide, and the balance of resident and nonresident students admitted to the UA.

"We will need to figure out how to keep the institution financially viable while increasing the overall quality by increasing diversity and recruiting more academically-prepared students and talented students," Ota said.

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