Degree production in public research universities in the United States
Saavedra Capelo, Franklin Mauricio
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Given the importance of degree production due to the impending demand for highly skilled graduates in the current knowledge-intensive economy, this study focused on examining the association between departmental factors in academic units in public research universities in the United States and the number of bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees conferred by each of these units taking into account quality and field of study. As such, three research questions considering the departments’ instructional type (i.e. mix of tenured/tenure track faculty, adjunct faculty, and graduate assistants); size (i.e. total instructional FTE); and financial resources (i.e. instructional expenditures and research expenditures) were proposed. To examine the research questions, this study applied the concept of production function together with utility maximization theory and academic capitalism theory as its conceptual framework. Based on this conceptual framework, six hypotheses were elaborated. The research questions and hypotheses were examined by analyzing data on academic units representing different fields of study in AAU public research universities. Multivariate seemingly unrelated regression (SUR) was employed to estimate the various equations simultaneously using Feasible Generalized Least Squares (FGLS) estimation and a double-log model. Overall, this study found that size had the greatest effect on degree production across all three degree types (bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees) while the effect of instructional type and financial resources varied by type of degree. When considering production by field of study, business management produced the greatest amount of master’s degrees. Partial evidence was found for business management producing the greatest amount of bachelor’s degrees and STEM producing the greatest amount of doctoral degrees. Based on the findings, this study observed a tradeoff between baccalaureate degree production and the production of doctoral degrees, as well as, a potential tradeoff between baccalaureate degree production and the production of research. Such tradeoff respectively poses concern given the mission of public research universities, President Barack Obama’s 2020 goal, and the need to meet the impending demand for skilled workers imposed by the knowledge-intensive economy.
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