It didn't take a new study by the Association of American Universities to convince Susan Levine, assistant dean of the Kansas University graduate school, that the shortage of doctoral students in the United States demands swift government intervention.
The study, "The Ph.D. Shortage: The Federal Role," concluded that competition among government, industry and academia for people with doctoral degrees may weaken this nation's competitive stature with other industrialized countries.
"This nation faces a serious shortage of Ph.D.s. A sharply increased demand will outstrip Ph.D. production before the end of the century," according to the report released Sunday by a nine-member working group comprised primarily of graduate school deans.
FACULTY SHORTAGES have appeared in engineering, natural sciences, business and other high-demand fields, the report says. The country also is on the edge of a shortage of doctoral degrees in the humanities and social sciences.
The current problem has been masked by the heavy enrollment of foreign students in graduate programs at U.S. universities, but the report recommended expansion of federal support for graduate education and doubling of federal fellowships.
"Students will come if we offer them attractive enough fellowships," Levine said today. "Right now even our honors fellowships, which seem attractive when you look at the numbers, sometimes don't compete with other schools' offers."
Judith Ramaley, executive vice chancellor, said that as universities struggle to lure more students to graduate school, a significant portion of the people who began academic careers after World War II are preparing for retirement.
"HOW ARE we going to smooth the major transition of our professoriate?" Ramaley asked. "It will be difficult. KU is no different than any place else. As we'll be looking for new faculty, so will all the other research universities in the country."
Higher education lost ground in the 1980s in the competition for human capital. In 1985, 43 percent of doctorates employed in the United States had jobs outside academia. By 1987, 50 percent of doctorate recipients were working outside academia.
Robert Sanders, associate dean of KU's graduate school, said it is difficult to convince science graduates who could earn $40,000 a year to spend the next several years pursuing a master's or doctoral degree at a student salary of $7,000.
At the state level, the dean of the graduate school, Frances Horowitz, should be credited for convincing Gov. Mike Hayden to recommend that the graduate teaching assistant fee waiver be expanded from 75 percent to 80 percent, Levine said.
"As you know, the graduate school has been pushing for a 100 percent waiver," Levine said. "(Horowitz) has been working very hard to convince the governor and Legislature to support KU graduate students that way."