College and university recruiters across the nation are finding it difficult to convince academically inclined undergraduates with huge debt loads to spurn lucrative job offers and enter graduate school, a Kansas University official says.
Robert Sanders, associate dean of the KU graduate school, said, for example, that it was hard for an engineering graduate who could earn $40,000 a year to justify the cost of pursuing a master's or doctoral degree. For KU graduate students who get a graduate teaching position, the average pay is below $7,000 a year. GTAs also get a 75 percent tuition waiver.
"One thing engineering students learn how to do is count right," Sanders said in an interview. "And they can see that those numbers don't add up. The problem will begin to be severe in the liberal arts fields in a couple years.
"It is an extremely serious problem. If you consider there will be a wave of faculty retirements in the 1990s and 2000, and you're not replenishing those ranks, you're going to have shortages in those fields."
NATIONAL Research Council statistics show that 12,400 black and white males earned doctoral degrees in 1987, 5,300 fewer than in 1977. White and black women and American Indians, Asians and Hispanics received 10,000 in 1987 and 7,300 in 1977.
Almost 6,100 students entered KU's graduate school this fall, an increase of 280 from 1988 and an increase of 500 since 1986. Twenty-three percent of the approximately 1,000 graduate teaching assistants at KU are foreign students.
Sanders said the KU enrollment increase doesn't negate the argument that KU's financial package for graduate students falls short, "because we're still losing the students we're really going after in various (hard science) programs."
KU could compete more effectively with better-financed colleges and universities for highly touted students if KU's stipends were higher, the tuition waiver for GTAs was greater and more fellowships were available, he said.
"THE STIPEND is not a small consideration," Sanders said. "When you talk to students about coming to your program, probably the second question they will ask is: What kind of financial aid program do you have? It's sometimes the first question.
"Our problem is when it gets down to stipends for graduate students the amount is not competitive for the students we want. It's similar to athletics. Every team wants the best players. In higher education, everybody goes after top-quality students."
The American Association of Universities reported that a 1988-89 survey of U.S. graduate student stipends showed the average cash salary of a GTA at KU was $6,802. That ranked KU's salary offering fourth among five selected peer institutions.
Peer universities and the average cash salaries offered GTAs during the current academic year are: University of Iowa, $9,102; University of Oregon, $7,201; University of Oklahoma, $6,941; and University of North Carolina, $6,500.
Graduate research assistants at KU receive salaries ranging from $7,000 to $8,000. But unlike GTAs, research assistants don't receive a fee waiver. Resident graduation tuition at KU is $1,456 a year. The non-resident rate is $4,254.
KU OFFICIALS asked the 1989 Kansas Legislature to provide relief for GTAs by raising the waiver from 75 percent to 100 percent. Lawmakers took no action. KU will again support an increase in the waiver during the 1990 session, Sanders said.
However, State Budget Director Michael O'Keefe has recommended to Gov. Mike Hayden reductions in the Kansas Board of Regents' requested budget for next fiscal year. If the Legislature approves cuts, an increase in the waiver would be unlikely.
Hundreds of KU graduate students receive federal need-based loans each year that must be repaid after graduation. But a small quantity of merit-based fellowships and scholarships are available through the graduate school.
Graduate school honors fellowships were presented to five KU students last year. The fellowship provides an annual stipend of $9,000 in three of the initial four years of study in programs leading to a doctorate.
Also last year seven students received a dissertation fellowship of $4,800 plus fees for one academic year, 36 students were granted $1,000 summer fellowships and five students received post-baccalaureate fellowships of $2,000.
SANDERS said recruiting minority students to graduate school, particularly black men, was an extra challenge. Federal grants for minority doctoral students dropped significantly in the 1980s, the National Research Council reported.
KU offers a few minority graduate student fellowships, as do its regional competitors at the University of Missouri and University of Nebraska. The KU fellowships range from $2,000 to $10,000 a year and include funds to pay tuition and research expenses.
Other schools, such as Ohio State University, have made a greater commitment to the financing of minority student fellowships. In the 1988-89 academic year, Ohio State offered 127 such fellowships of $10,300 plus tuition allowances.