Goodbye to the exclusivity of Ph.D. programs at the University and hello to strained resources — the days of small class sizes and hours of face time with professors could be long gone. With a new continuous enrollment system in place, Rackham Graduate School will admit more students but leave funding unchanged. The plan ignores the true purpose of graduate school, emphasizing an expedient graduation rather than the gradual process of thorough research. With this policy in place, the University needs to concentrate more resources so that the quality of a graduate education does not suffer.

Set to begin as early as fall 2010, the continuous enrollment system will include already-admitted students and increase enrollment by almost 30 percent. Under the policy, students will have to register each semester to retain an “active” status until degree completion. Even during periods of detached study, students are required to register and pay tuition to stay in the program.

The new policy serves the interests of Rackham more than those of students. Though a decrease in tuition rates is being hailed as a welcome change, this won’t really affect graduate students because most of them have at least part of their tuition covered by the University. What the proposal will achieve is a higher completion rates that will give Rackham a comparative advantage in recruiting. It also argues that if students retain “active” status, the change will reduce administrative work in dealing with the changing needs of Ph.D. students. But a decreased hassle for the administration and a better reputation does not mean a more efficient system for students.

The problem is that the Rackham executive board is trying to streamline graduate programs that demand flexibility. Though the board intends to solve a valid problem — unsatisfactory graduation rates — it will create new problems in the process. The new system will essentially put more students into programs not yet designed for such numbers.

Students will face a higher student-professor ratio and consequently less individualized attention. In this case, a higher enrollment puts quality at risk. Such a change is not ideal for students investing money and years of their lives into a program — a program meant to facilitate their independent research, not corner them into speeding up the process and compete for time with their professors.

The opportunity to do research abroad without constraint is a crucial component of graduate study. It is a time when detachment from the University is often part of the experience. Students who spend extended periods of time studying abroad should not have to deal with continuous registration nor bear the financial burden of paying tuition. Rackham’s vague intention to provide University services while abroad does not warrant the added pressure on students to finish their degrees.

The goals of the continuous enrollment system must remain open to evaluation to ensure that the interests of students are being met. Rackham needs to provide enough faculty and resources for an increased number of students to get the same quality education in graduate school.

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