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Research Questions

  1. Do Texas public higher education institutions need to expand graduate programs?
  2. How can THECB and higher education institutions best prepare and evaluate graduate program proposals?
  3. What policies can help manage any needed expansion of graduate programs in Texas?

Texas's 60x30TX strategic plan and RAND researchers' analysis of labor market projections point to a continuation of strong growth in graduate education in the state. To examine issues related to graduate education in Texas, the College for All Texans Foundation asked RAND to assess Texas's need to expand graduate degree production. This report should help the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), higher education systems, and individual higher education institutions in Texas assess the need to expand their master's, doctoral, and professional programs, and may be useful in framing issues that THECB should address in developing a strategic plan to align graduate education in the state with the goals of the 60x30TX strategic plan.

To be competitive, Texas needs to compare favorably with other states and countries. The number of research universities in Texas is increasing rapidly, but too few of these institutions are ranked at the highest levels internationally. Texas's institutions also do not attract the same share of federal research and development funding as other states, especially California. To further increase the competitiveness of its universities, Texas will likely need to make additional public investments in research capacity for institutions at several stages of development.

Generally, Texas has been increasing its production of graduate degrees in fields corresponding to the occupational groups that are expected to have the most job openings: business, healthcare, education, computers, and engineering. However, because growth in graduate engineering degrees has been slow compared with other states and with projected demand, THECB and institutions should consider expanding graduate programs in engineering. In addition, greater efforts should be made to recruit domestic students and provide adequate financial support to motivate those with a bachelor's degree to pursue graduate education. Finally, as Texas explores ways to increase graduate education production, new programs will likely be necessary in addition to increasing enrollments in existing programs.

Key Findings

Labor Market Demand for Graduate Degrees

  • We examined labor market demand by estimating which occupations in Texas will likely see the largest increase in new jobs requiring a graduate degree over the next few years. Across the top occupations for graduate demand, we estimate more than 120,000 new jobs requiring graduate education will be created in Texas between 2012 and 2022. Business, healthcare, and teachers are the occupational groups with greatest demand.

Graduate Degree Production

  • Texas has been increasing production of graduate degrees, especially in business and health fields, although engineering production has not grown much.
  • Texas has a large, diverse population, and its Hispanic population is growing particularly rapidly but is not well represented in graduate education.

Texas's Position in Graduate Education and Research

  • We compared Texas with three other large states: California, Florida, and New York. Adjusted for population, Texas's graduate degree production is comparable with California's, above Florida's and below New York's.
  • Adjusted for population, Texas received about 49 percent of California's federal research and development funding level and 44 percent of New York's level.
  • The number of research universities in Texas is increasing rapidly compared with other states, but few of these institutions are ranked at the highest levels internationally.

Institutional Motivation to Offer Graduate Degrees

  • Institutions and departments vary in their motivations to offer graduate degrees. Some motivators are concerned with institutional prestige relative to other institutions, while some are closer to the departmental level, such as responding to student or labor market demand or new requirements from professional organizations.

Recommendations

  • To enhance the competitiveness of Texas public higher education institutions, THECB should continue, and consider increasing, state research program funding.
  • Consider increases in general fund appropriations to support growing enrollments, and use the current formula funding method to allocate them.
  • Institutions and systems should consider programs to strengthen the pipeline of domestic students, including underrepresented minorities, into science and engineering graduate programs.
  • The state (or other funders) should consider funding special stipends for domestic students in science and engineering doctoral programs.
  • Place more emphasis on institutional support and policies in reviewing doctoral program proposals.
  • Review student access regularly and consider alternative pathways when needed.
  • Ensure the quality of master's programs through accreditation or an alternative process.
  • Support institutional access to labor market analysis tools.
  • Require institutions to demonstrate a need for multidisciplinary programs.
  • Institutions should conduct their own preproposal reviews.
  • Institutions should consult informally with THECB staff early during proposal development.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Study Approach and Data Sources

  • Chapter Three

    Texas Labor Market Demand and Degree Production

  • Chapter Four

    Texas's Position in Graduate Education and Research

  • Chapter Five

    Graduate Program Decisionmaking Process

  • Chapter Six

    Systemic and Process Aspects of Graduate Program Development

  • Chapter Seven

    Conclusion

  • Appendix A

    Detailed Tables

  • Appendix B

    Findings on Six Case Study Fields

The research described in this report was conducted by RAND Education.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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