Find students and engage them on Gradschoolmatch

The Gradschoolmatch Director’s control panel

Most students have an influence network and start their graduate program search on the basis of word-of-mouth. That’s always been our key insight. As a result, Gradschoolmatch operates on two very simple premises. First, people in graduate programs are in the best position to guide prospects because they have incredible expertise to offer. Second, prospects benefit greatly when receiving expert guidance.

If word-of-mouth is how they find programs, the most effective way for graduate programs to recruit new students is to join their influence network. Simply find those with the proper backgrounds and interests for your program and offer them some guidance. Recruiting success lies on the human scale.

This is not at all complicated. Take these four simple steps to do that on Gradschoolmatch.

Step 1: Edit Your Profile

Why? Our search engine reads everything that you enter into your graduate program profile. Sure, you want prospects reading all of that. But we take your profile information and turn it into a sophisticated search query. Running automagically in the background, this delivers continuously to your program the prospects who fit best. That saves you from having to run search queries over and over.

How? Click on ‘Edit Profiles‘, then click on the green buttons with white pencils for each section. Fill out everything, find a save button and click it. Most especially, be sure to select a dozen or so academic fields to describe what your program offers. Do the same for the academic fields you like to see in your prospect’s backgrounds.

Step 2: Find Students

Why? Well, it seems obvious, but which is better? Hoping students discover your program, or finding students you’d like to see in your program?

How? After you’ve completed step 1, click on ‘Find Students‘. The students on this list are the output from that sophisticated, running-all-the-time search query I mentioned above.

These prospects in our system best match your program, from top to bottom. We think. If you don’t like who you see, go back and edit your profile until you start seeing the kinds of students you like. To search for others, click on the green button on the top right labeled ‘Search for specific criteria‘.

Step 3: Bookmark Students

Why? Now that you’ve found them, you want them to see you. Bookmark does that. To Bookmark a prospect is to say, “Hi, my program is interested in you!” Students notice that.

How? Open a student’s profile by clicking on their name. If you like who you see, click the big green ‘Bookmark‘ button. Two things follow that. First, Gradschoolmatch delivers an email notifying the student of your interest. Second, their profile automagically transports to your ‘My Prospects page‘, where you can track, sort and rate everybody you’ve Bookmarked…and who has Bookmarked you.

Some student profiles don’t have a lot of information. That just means they haven’t signed in. But they see those emails come in and open a lot of them. A Bookmark from you might be all it takes to get an engagement started.

The data are very clear. Bookmarking generates interest. The programs that pro-actively Bookmark prospects draw the most interest from prospects on the site. Passive programs receive less interest.
Step 4: Message Students

Why? Remember the part about word-of-mouth? Here’s where that really happens.

How? Click on ‘Message‘ on a student’s profile. Type your message and–after giving the Golden Rule some thought–hit the send button.

About that Golden Rule. Do you like spam? Neither do they. So please omit the canned, copy-and-pasted marketing message. Nobody reads that.

Just be yourself, which is undoubtedly personal, friendly, helpful, encouraging, sophisticated and even humorous. And if that is not your personality, then ask one of your grad students who has some to help out!

Provide some quick and to-the-point guidance, and please be sure to key off of something that impressed you in their profile. Then ask for a phone call, or a Skype, or for more information. That’s engagement.

And good grief, if you see enough information that you’d like to see their application, then tell them so!

Please remember that you’re offering to join their influence network. That’s a privileged space.


Choosing a grad school program is a classic forked-path problem

I’ve just returned from a long overdue break out west, spent in part on the streams and trails of the spectacular Absaroka wilderness area in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest. I intended to unplug from the grid completely and not consider work at all, but the mind doesn’t always cooperate.

On trail one day a thought suddenly struck me: Choosing a grad school program, at one level, is the same problem a traveler in unfamiliar territory faces running into a forked path.

I admit this metaphor is not particularly novel. But it serves as a handy launching point to think through the extraordinary problem students and graduate programs face every application cycle.

How do you go about choosing a grad school program that is right for you?

The decision on the trail is pretty simple compared to what our future graduate students face. On the trail, typically only two options are at hand…left or right.

Still, there is always a sense of apprehension and uncertainty. Left might take you up a hillside occupied by a momma grizzly bear lording over the valley with her cubs, whereas right might take you down to that cool stream full of big trout.

The only possible error is one of commission–choosing the wrong path under the worst case could take you to a very large unwelcoming bear, or under the best case to a missed fishing opportunity.

In a couple of key aspects prospective graduate students are faced with a far more challenging problem than a hiker. Far too many make errors of commission. But the main problem is the sheer scale of options. For a given academic specialization, a solid prospect could find anywhere from several dozen to hundreds of different graduate programs that would make sense.

That’s a lot of possible paths. Too many.

Their set size is so large that students can’t possibly consider them all. In fact, they miss knowing about nearly all the programs that would fit them well.

Instead they end up focusing on only a handful of programs, constructed partly on the basis of guidance from people they know, many of whom have no particular direct expertise in advising which programs might be better for them.

These students are making a second type of error, one of omission. Omission errors are so large that they are far more likely to completely miss the right program than they are to apply to the wrong one.

Consider a student that might be expected to fit, logically, within 100 different programs. The typical student will only research 8% of them, and then apply to only 4%.

They overlook 92% of the programs that would otherwise fit.

What all of this means for graduate programs is not all that complicated. To create a stronger applicant pool will involve getting more of the right people who don’t know about your program to take a look at it. And then offering them a touch of expert guidance while you have their attention.

That’s where real opportunity to move the needle lies.

The Gradschoolmatch solution

First, we simplify the exploration set for students while equipping programs, for the first time, with the ability to seek out the kinds of prospects they prefer for their program. We show the right programs to the right students. And vice-versa.

Our match algorithm suggests the right programs for students to consider, while also creating lists of prospective students for programs. This is all on the basis of the information each puts into their Gradschoolmatch profiles. The better the information each provides, the higher quality fits that we are able to generate for you and them.

That’s precision.

Next, our communication functions offer prospects and programs alike a way to express interest in each other.

Programs perform the essential task of informing those who they see as the the right students that that their program exists.

Meanwhile, students can express interest in programs to see if they are a fit. The exchange of interests is bidirectional. For programs and students alike all of this happens with a single click of button.

That’s simple.

Perhaps the most common feedback we hear from student users is their surprise to discover good programs they had not previously considered in places they weren’t looking. Going further, these programs can offer guidance to prospects.

How? Rather than composing a canned marketing message, try something powerful in its simplicity.

Send a message such as: “Here’s my program, take a look because your background and interests seems like we might be a good fit for you. And please let me know if you have any questions.”

That’s human. That’s word-of-mouth. And that’s something that happens all of the time in the hallway, on an elevator or out in the courtyard.

Now it can happen on the internet.

That’s effective.

Guiding prospects, not marketing to them, is the secret to recruiting success

When contemplating a proactive recruitment strategy here’s a few things worth knowing about your target.

Future graduate students are about to make a huge decision. They’ve arrived to a point in their lives where they are staking their career trajectories on this graduate school choice. What they don’t know makes them apprehensive. They struggle with the decision. They don’t want to make a mistake. And they are leery of being exploited.

Also, it should go without mentioning that their appetite for intrusive banner ads, blinking sidebars and spam is no greater than yours. In fact, millennials use ad blocker software at higher rates than any other demographic.

Finally, they use a variety of specialized apps to find information and communicate in myriad ways.

Rather than wasting your resources on inefficient and impersonal advertising, or barging into their social spaces, you should consider ways to leverage your expertise in your academic specialty and graduate program culture.

The students who you want in your program are doing a lot of homework, grinding over a big decision, and slowly discovering that’s the help they are looking looking for! Guidance is something of value that only you can offer them.

Spotting the right prospects and offering guidance is a distinguishing feature of Gradschoolmatch.

Alyssa’s simple but powerful story is one of successful guidance, not marketing.

She found her perfect match at Vanderbilt University in no small part because Dr. Beth Bowman was there, on Gradschoolmatch, at the other end to not only spot Alyssa but also offer her the guidance she needed and deserved.

By the way, while in the Wyoming wilds we managed to take the correct path each and every time.

Not because we were lucky.

We had hired a local guide whose knowledge of the trails was so deep, he probably could have led us blind-folded. He may very well have. I was lagging too far behind most of the time to see him.


We are not producing too many research doctorates

For those considering joining the ranks of people who hold research doctorates there are two recent, and fundamentally negative, articles you should read.  One focuses on the low probabilities of landing a job as a professor once you have your PhD. The second article focuses the many problems of culture and practice that afflict academic research and those who perform said.

By all means, step into your degree program with your eyes wide open. Read those two articles if you are considering applying to research doctoral programs. There’s no question most of those problems exist. But both articles largely omit that most of those same problems have existed for decades.

I want to address one point that neither of the articles really focuses upon, yet each side-swipes in their own way. That’s the economic issue of whether our society is producing too many research doctorates. Both articles lead one to believe there is an over-supply of PhDs, who have no value outside of academe.

I want to share a couple of data points that strongly argue against that.

First, there is no PhD “Bubble”

A good way to look at this question is via time trends. If we are producing too many research doctorates, we’d expect to see an ever rising production rate, or at least a big bubble.

When I plot out the numbers of research doctorates awarded each year since 1957, what I see is, basically, a flat line running back to the 1970’s. You’ll see a flat line when you normalize the data correctly, here, in terms of overall population. Thus, the rate of PhD production per million US population is flat and has been for several decades.

annual new doc awards us

Second, PhD’s are among the most employed people in the economy

If we are producing too many research doctorates then we would expect to see high rates of unemployment and low wages for people with PhDs. In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics data show just the opposite. PhD’s have an unemployment rate and wages that are almost the same as people with professional doctorates (eg, MD’s, JD’s).


As hierarchical institutions, universities are inherently biased towards the exploitative. Mentor-protege relationships are very tricky and can become unstable. Grad school, and academic life, have had a hellish aspect for a long time.

Finally, for some perspective, it’s been difficult, but not impossible, to land a tenure track academic job and government research grants since the mid-70’s.

I’m certainly not an apologist for the system. More like a realist. Anybody considering one of these doctoral degree programs needs to understand the pitfalls and be on the alert for red flags.

I only say this to point out there is nothing really new in either of those two articles. Earning a research doctorate is extremely challenging. But that experience can be as rewarding. It will probably pay dividends throughout ones career.


Clinton’s Free College Tuition Proposal Would Cost $65 Billion

US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has just proposed a free college tuition plan. Numbers on the cost of the proposal have not come with the announcement. But they are easy to estimate. I’ve run a quick calculation and find her plan would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 billion per year.

We’ll see what the real experts come up with, but my guess is that’s the ballpark cost for what it will take to completely unburden students.

A nice overview of the plan written by Doug Lederman can be read at Inside Higher Ed. There is, for example, a means testing component. But it would benefit the vast majority of college students.

The bottom line is not really all that complicated. For a plan such as this to work for colleges it would, minimally, need to replace all of the tuition revenue they collect.

To arrive at my estimate I simply summed the amount of net tuition US public post-secondary institutions collected, using data in the IPEDs database. These are most of the < 2yr, 2yr, and 4+yr institutions. The number arrived at represents tuition revenue at just under 1900 public institutions across the US and territories that enroll students after high school, including community colleges. Collectively, they report net tuition revenue of $65.552 billion in 2014.

Net tuition is, basically, the tuition actually collected from students after various scholarships and discounts. Net tuition has been rising as states have slashed budgets, shifting higher proportions of their costs to students. The burden puts even public colleges out of reach for an increasing number of students. Those who do attend are saddled with higher levels of debt, a burden that becomes extreme for those who never graduate.

Meanwhile, public colleges–too frequently characterized as the bad actors– are victims of a sort, too. Their enrollment has been steadily declining as they lose the cost advantage they once enjoyed over private colleges. This worsens their fiscal position, and they are under threat of becoming trapped in a vicious cycle of chasing higher tuition rates while losing students.

Is free college tuition affordable?
Federal spending. Image from the National Priorities Project.
Federal spending. Image from the National Priorities Project.

The Federal budget of $3.8 trillion is broken into two pieces, about $2.5 trillion is mandatory spending. Since mandatory spending is mostly on social security and health care, think of it as the fixed insurance obligation of the federal government.

Another $1.1 trillion is discretionary spending, the second piece, which includes everything else the federal government does. Because over half of discretionary spending is on the military, Noble economist Paul Krugman dryly refers to the government as an insurance company with an army, navy and air force.

Education spending is within the relatively small slice of the budget that is not mandatory or military spending.

All things being equal, Secretary Clinton’s proposal would increase the education component of the budget to just under $170 billion, or from 3% to 4.3% of the overall budget.

That doesn’t strike me as a large amount of money given the overall spending matrix. Perhaps most importantly, if you set out to invest an additional 1.3% of your budget on something, it is hard to imagine how you’d get a better long term payoff than putting that into higher education.


Here’s a Graduate School You Should Look at for a Masters Degree in Diplomacy and International Relations

It’s been over a decade since New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman famously declared that the world is flat. One thing is clear, the inexorable march of globalization is built upon a framework of diplomacy and international relations, a career specialization that demands graduate level training. Gradschoolmatch founder TJ Murphy recently sat down with Daniel Kristo, the Director of Graduate Programs at Seton Hall University’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations to learn more about the niche.

TJ Murphy: Thanks for sitting down with us to discuss how your graduate programs might fulfill the interests of people looking into careers in diplomacy and international relations.

Daniel Kristo: Thank you for the opportunity.

Daniel Kristo, MA-MS, Director of Graduate Admissions
Daniel Kristo, MA-MS, Director of Graduate Admissions

TJ Murphy: I’d like to start by asking who, exactly, is the type of person who should be looking at your programs, in terms of their career interests and academic backgrounds?

Daniel Kristo: We are asked this question frequently.  The simple answer is: “there is not one unique profile that fits all” as the School of Diplomacy attracts a diverse candidate pool.  Last year alone we invited graduate candidates from 17 countries and from 20 US states.

Applicants to our graduate programs come from over 60 undergraduate majors…not just ‘political science’ or ‘international relations’.  About 50% of our incoming class has more than two years of professional experience post-Bachelor’s degree.  The School also offers dual graduate degrees that combine ‘diplomacy’ with business, law, communication, public administration and Asian studies; these additional options attract students from various walks of life.  

Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations Alumni
Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations Alumni

TJ Murphy: Where are your program graduates heading off for work?

Daniel Kristo: Many perceive ‘diplomacy’ in direct correlation with careers in government or at the United Nations for instance.  However, our alumni outcomes show that diplomacy and international relations has a wide range of applicability in the field in all three sectors…in terms of sectors, 40% are in the private, 22% are in the public and 38% are in non-for-profit.   

Our most recent graduating class listed the following top employers: U.S. Department of State, the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Amnesty International USA, the NGO Working Group on the Security Council, the Drug Policy Alliance, Booz Allen Hamilton, JP Morgan Chase and Chemonics International.   

TJ Murphy: I think most of us can imagine how diplomacy specialists might operate in public and non-for-profit, but what about in the private sector? Can you provide an example or two of the kind of work your private sector graduates do?

Daniel Kristo: Sure. The private sector offers various paths.  One of our MA specializations is ‘International Security’; students with an interest in this specialization often gravitate toward a career path in intelligence.  There are various private companies like Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) who value our student profiles, since often BAH contracts with government agencies on defense projects that may even require security clearance.

We see an increasing interest in ‘country risk’ as large insurance agencies have specific divisions that provide country risk assessments.

Other examples include Marsh International (Public-Private Partnership Development), CNN (News/Research), Reuters (Business Development) and more.

“Your program seems to put a great deal of effort into career development. That’s a key signal of a student-centric program culture, which I applaud loudly.”

TJ Murphy: What kinds of projects might your graduates work on while employed by a firm like BAH? Analysts? Problem solvers? People in the field?

Daniel Kristo: Analysts work in intelligence analysis and project management that often are confidential in nature. Key skills that are valued include: effective writing, research analysis, data interpretation and the ability to translate data into effective communication tools in a concise manner.

TJ Murphy: So the program curriculum is focused on building core competencies in those areas?

Catherine Ruby, PhD, Director of Internships and Career Development
Catherine Ruby, PhD, Director of Internships and Career Development

Daniel Kristo: Exactly – our MA curriculum, for instance, incorporates a research methods course to help students develop effective quantitative and qualitative research skills that are needed throughout the graduate program and beyond.  Professors are keen on developing students’ writing skills.  Professors even stimulate students to write op-ed’s and publish them as individual authors or as a members of a team.  Students have taken advantage of the faculty mentorship; they have successfully published in various outlets, including: International Policy Digest, PassBlue and more. MA candidates are also required to complete at least one internship course, with the option to add a second internship.  These efforts are facilitated by our Director of Internships and Career Development.

To date students have interned in more than 600 internship partner institutions in 67 countries around the world.  Students truly have the platform to apply their in-classroom knowledge and test it in a real-world environment.S Power 3

TJ Murphy: It’s hard to be in graduate school–no matter the field–and avoid opportunities to deepen one’s writing and analysis chops.  Your program seems to put a great deal of effort into career development. That’s a key signal of a student-centric program culture, which I applaud loudly. What’s driving you guys in this regard?

Daniel Kristo: Thank you for the comment and great question. Overall the MA in Diplomacy and International Relations is tailored to prepare candidates for the real world, although a small percentage continue on to pursuing a PhD program in a related field. The driving force is two-fold: (1) personal attention is something that we pride ourselves on since the founding of the School, which is the first school in international relations to be launched after the Cold War; (2) the market indicates that employers value a candidate with professional experience vs. one who was entirely focused in academia.

TJ Murphy: But it takes effort–and resources–on the program’s part to build a career development ethos and infrastructure. I get that employers like what they like. My question is why are you guys delivering? Why did this become important to you?

Daniel Kristo:  In addition to our values-based long-standing culture, the School’s intimate size allows us to deliver on our commitment to personalized service – with an average classroom size of 15 students, there is a much more dynamic interaction between students and professors.  

I mentioned earlier that our Director of Internships and Career Development works one-on-one with students to help develop their professional profiles during the program, while our Director of Professional Services is someone who students get to know as they finalize their post-graduation plans.  

The idea of the internship is to ‘test the waters’ and see if you are compatible within an industry that you thought you were interested in from the beginning.  For some students the internship experience serves as a validation; they will continue to work in the same field or will change gears and try something different.  The ability to have an existing platform that allows that kind of experimenting is a plus.

TJ Murphy: Rotation models are common for doctoral programs but that’s fairly unusual for master’s programs, where the dominant model in graduate admissions is for a student to differentiate BEFORE enrolling. That flexible method of student development is unusually student centric.

Daniel Kristo: We cater to our graduate audience, which again is a diverse one.  We do have candidates who apply with less than two years of experience and come from that BA-to-MA transition; in which case we do ask for a sense of clear direction – that will be developed further during graduate studies. Our MA program offers 13 functional and regional specializations – students are required to choose two out of 13. By specializing within the MA program, students are developing a niche that will distinguish them from other candidates when making the transition to full time employment post-graduation.

TJ Murphy: I see your enrollment is about 110. How are they distributed between your various degree programs?

Daniel Kristo: 90% of the graduate class consists of MA candidates as our graduate certificates in United Nations Studies and Post-Conflict State Reconstruction and Sustainability (online program) were launched in the last couple of years. We do not offer a PhD program.  However, I am happy to announce that the School is launching a new Executive MS program in International Affairs catered towards a more mature audience, experience wise. Also, in collaboration with the Seton Hall School of Health and Medical Science we are launching this fall 2016 semester a graduate certificate in Global Health Management.

“I advise applicants to describe previous accomplishments, future career goals and why they believe the MA program will serve as ‘a bridge’ between the two.”

TJ Murphy: And you use a rolling admissions process, is that correct? Again, a student-centric device. Perhaps you’d like to explain briefly how that works for you?

Daniel Kristo: Overall we offer rolling admissions with preferred deadlines of March 31st (for fall entry) and October 31st (for spring entry) – the deadlines correlate to our scholarship opportunities, which are merit-based.

TJ Murphy:  So the best advice is to apply early to have a shot at these scholarships?

Daniel Kristo: Yes!

TJ Murphy: Perhaps you can explain your application process and your role. Most people just beginning their graduate school search don’t really understand how the process works, or why the people who run the program really want to reach out and communicate with prospects.

Daniel Kristo: As the Director of Graduate Admissions my job is to work closely with applicants in putting together a competitive application prior to presenting it to the admissions committee. 

We ask for a 1-page, less than 500 words statement as it forces the applicant to write in a concise manner.  The statement serves as a writing sample as well, therefore it needs to be a meaningful well-written piece.  There are various ways to approach the statement.  Typically, I advise applicants to describe previous accomplishments, future career goals and why they believe the MA program will serve as ‘a bridge’ between the two.

TJ Murphy: I’m sure applicants would learn the value of concise writing if they first had to read a bunch of applications! Haha! Sorry, that’s an admissions committee insider’s joke.

What’s most interesting in all of that is how you describe your role: “to work closely with applicants”.  Too few of the people who are considering graduate programs understand our role is to help them be stronger candidates. They don’t do themselves any favors by not reaching out ahead of deadlines.

Daniel Kristo: As a former graduate student, I understand the journey of researching and choosing the right graduate program.  Because of this understanding, it comes naturally to provide as much value-added information which helps applicants make an informed decision.  The rewards are many – I do get to meet fascinating individuals with impressive yet touching backgrounds.

TJ Murphy: This has been very thorough and I’m sure it will prove to be a great resource for people considering graduate school opportunities in Diplomacy and International Relations. We see some data on Gradschoolmatch that points to fairly high interest in “international” fields of study. I have just one last loaded question:

Daniel Kristo: Yes?

TJ Murphy: I imagine that climate change will drive a lot of international conflict in the coming decades as nations react to a world of changing resources forced by environmental shifts. Does your School see the same?

Daniel Kristo: Yes!  

Seton Hall University has been acknowledged by Washington Monthly as a top university in the US for ‘contributing to the social good’, which is in alignment with our mission and work here at the School of Diplomacy.  

Philip Moremen, Ph.D, Associate Professor
Philip Moremen, Ph.D, Associate Professor

The School of Diplomacy is a strategic partner of UNA-USA, now part of UNF (United Nations Foundation).  Together last year, as the United Nations turned 70…and prior to the UN Climate Change Conference we hosted a presentation led by our own expert, Dr. Philip Moremen, who specifically covered this question and other related topics. Climate change is affecting various areas of human life…from economic to population shifts…to raw materials/resources’ scarcity – such challenges require a deep understanding of local markets and the global impact. We are proud to prepare servant leaders who possess both skills of service and leadership; it is our goal to continue to enhance the learning culture that is in sync with changing landscapes at the global level.

This year we are launching a new scholarship initiative, which will enable candidates from around the world to submit a ‘challenge’ proposal in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  This is a great opportunity for prospective students to come up with practical solutions in response to global challenges.   The idea is to reward student recipients for innovative thinking and help them further develop their ideas during their graduate studies under the mentorship of faculty members and/or senior administrators – stay tuned for more details.  Students at the UN Summer Intensive Program in NYC

TJ Murphy: It sounds like people can launch very important and fulfilling careers from your graduate program. Hard to do much better than that. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today.

Daniel Kristo: Thank you for the opportunity TJ; we value the platform and the high quality students we have had the pleasure of interacting with.

TJ Murphy: Trust me, it is gratifying to learn about programs such as yours, and the important role they play.  if Gradschoolmatch introduces you and your program to that one person who someday prevents some big nasty international conflict, I’ll be very fulfilled.

Daniel Kristo: Let’s hope so.

Use Gradschoolmatch to Connect directly with Daniel Kristo and Seton Hall’s programs in Diplomacy and International Relations.

For more information about the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, visit their website, or follow them on facebook and twitter.


Degrees in Law: Delaware Law School Offers MJ Graduate Programs in Compliance

student-book-computerThe flip side of government regulations and legislative action is compliance. Several industries are subject to complex rules and regulations and depend upon employees with specialized expertise in compliance. And, to no surprise, there are graduate degrees in law for that!  

Although most people understand the JD degree is offered for those seeking to practice the profession of law, not all degrees in law are JD’s. And the JD is not necessarily sufficient on its own for specialization in the niche area of compliance.

Gradschoolmatch founder TJ Murphy sat down for a chat to discuss this with Eileen Grena, Assistant Dean at Widener University Delaware Law School, along with Pam Kroh, Assistant Director of Delaware Law’s Master’s in Jurisprudence (MJ) graduate programs in compliance. At Delaware Law, one can earn an MJ in either business/corporate compliance, in health care compliance, and, now, even in higher education compliance.

We discuss these programs, who they are intended for, and the career paths that these programs can best serve.

TJ Murphy: Thanks, Eileen and Pam, for sitting down with Gradschoolmatch today. We’re big believers in specialization in the graduate school space. Why do you offer degrees in law in these areas of compliance?  What niche in the graduate school universe do they fill?

Eileen Grena: Our master’s degrees in compliance offer an alternative for graduate students who may have been considering law school, but have decided against it.  Earning a master’s degree from a law school can result in a career just as satisfying as that which a law degree can provide, and can open up opportunities for positions where the students use the legal knowledge they have gained, without having to take a bar exam.   

Pam Kroh: While our programs are not a prep course for the certification exams, our master’s of jurisprudence degrees in compliance enable students to receive the eligibility required to sit for a certification.  The requirements to sit for the certifications include 1500 hours of work experience and 20 continuing education units.  Many students new to the compliance field do not have 1500 hours of work experience yet.  

Therefore, these requirements are waived for our students who successfully complete our compliance degrees. This waiver was accomplished through our accreditation by the Compliance Certification Board. Certifications are available in healthcare compliance, corporate compliance, and global compliance.  These certifications are now leading the way as an industry standard for compliance professionals.  

Successful graduates can look forward to careers as Chief Compliance Officer, Compliance Training Manager, Director of Compliance, Compliance Specialist, and much more in health care organizations, corporations, international companies, government agencies, small businesses, and more.

TJ Murphy: So are you saying that board certification is required for individuals working in these compliance capacities?

Eileen Grena: No, it is not a requirement, but is quickly becoming an industry standard for success and advancement within the field.

TJ Murphy: Would you like to attract students who are already working in compliance, or those who would like to shift from some other career into that field?

Pam Kroh: We would like to educate both students new to the compliance field and students who currently work in the compliance field about our offerings.  By offering both a full two-year master’s degree or a one-year shorter graduate-level certificate we can accommodate those with less experience seeking the initial knowledge of compliance or those with more experience seeking to enhance their credentials.  Further, we offer more than 25 compliance courses to choose from, for students who are simply seeking to enrich themselves by taking one or two, and up to three classes, to enrich themselves, without fully matriculating.  These enrichment courses for students who do not wish to matriculate, can still help those students gain knowledge that can contribute to their preparation for taking a CCB exam.

TJ Murphy:That sounds like a versatile approach….and I use versatility as a synonym of student-centric approach. The idea that the program is flexible because the students they wish to train need that flexibility.

Pam Kroh: Yes, that’s exactly right.  Not every student comes from the same background, or has the same goals, so we offer a variety of options to enter into the program so they can personalize their experience.

TJ Murphy: Can you explain why education in compliance works so well within a law school framework; and not within a framework of a medical, business or nursing school, for examples?

Eileen Greta-Piretti JD RN, Assistant Dean
Eileen Greta-Piretti JD RN, Assistant Dean

Eileen Grena: Sure.  Education in compliance works well in a law school framework because compliance programs are created as a result of the many laws and regulations that govern business and healthcare organizations.  So in addition to teaching our students  the elements of a compliance program and how to build that program, we provide our students with knowledge of the U.S. court systems, where our law comes from, how to find the law, and how to read, interpret, and analyze the law so that they can then apply that legal knowledge, and the specific laws impacting their industry, to their own organizations.  Delaware Law School in particular has an established, nationally-recognized reputation in both corporate and health law education and through faculty who are both attorneys and certified in compliance, students gain practical skills and legal experience.

TJ Murphy: Let’s focus in on the healthcare area for a moment.  What are some examples of people who work in healthcare who would need or want compliance education?

Eileen Grena: There are many different positions in healthcare that would benefit from compliance education.  Some healthcare employees may want to use the education to transition from practicing clinical healthcare to an administrative role, while others may already work in the administrative role and because there are so few higher education programs that teach compliance, they will want to use the knowledge to expand their current role.  

For example, nurses may want to move away from patient care to a compliance role or, for example, a nursing home administrator may need to enhance his or her current knowledge.  Healthcare professionals working in hospital compliance, privacy, nursing homes, regulatory affairs, pharmaceutical, information management, records management, risk management, quality assurance, health insurance, medical device manufacturers, and more can benefit from compliance education to stay abreast of the fast-changing regulations that impact daily healthcare practice.

TJ Murphy: Yes, nothing in healthcare seems static. Remember HMO’s? Are any areas “hotter” than others in terms of higher demand for compliance expertise? Has the Affordable Care Act had a measurable impact on the need?

Eileen Grena: Absolutely, the ACA has had a huge impact on this need.  As healthcare organizations struggle to interpret and enforce the ACA and other regulations like the Sunshine Act and ICD-10, a student with a degree in compliance from Delaware Law will have spent a considerable amount of time analyzing these regulations in an effort to prepare to assist their organizations with understanding and implementing these regulations.  The healthcare industry has become perhaps the most regulated in the United States, so the health law field has become a dynamic and complex area of law.  Having attorneys teaching our students about these laws is an enormous benefit to their learning experience and legal knowledge.

TJ Murphy: Switching gears a bit, you also offer a program focused on corporate regulations, but that also includes the non-profit and government areas as well. Between these and healthcare, what is the relative appetite and interests out there for workers?

Pam Kroh, Assistant Director, Graduate and Compliance Programs

Pam Kroh: Our student population has been consistently equally mixed with both healthcare majors and corporate majors.  While the healthcare industry is extremely large, the need for corporate education is just as important due to the increased financial and business laws that have come along in recent years as a result of scandals like Enron and Worldcom.

Eileen Grena:  Additionally, corporate education can be helpful to those working in a variety of settings that vary from large chain stores to global companies and even to small businesses.  Regardless of size, industry, or location in the world, companies should be cognizant of risk management, corporate fraud, and the regulations that guide companies, and how to create a culture of compliance and ethics within their organization.  Delaware Law is located in the unofficial “corporate capital” of the United States, and with more than a million companies, including almost 2/3 of Fortune 500 companies incorporated in Delaware and Delaware’s preeminence in corporate law, there is no better place to study the law relating to corporations.  The increasing complexity of national and international business is driving a growing demand for professionals with advanced legal expertise.

TJ Murphy: I’d like to take that last line and circle back to one of your first comments, about students choosing programs like yours rather than traditional JD’s.  Is this the new normal in the field of law? The demand for legal expertise didn’t just disappear when the demand for the JD fell a few years ago. Do you believe the MJ degrees and certificates are the way that demand will be filled moving forward?

Pam Kroh: We believe compliance is the new normal, and professionals are needed at every level from master’s to JD.  It is based on each organization’s need as to whether they require a licensed attorney or a compliance professional with a master’s degree.  The compliance field is growing so rapidly that there are many positions available to provide individuals with these varying degrees the opportunity to find a role that suits them the best.  Delaware Law offers specialized knowledge and a curriculum in compliance that provides options for both those who seek and/or have a law degree and those who do not wish to pursue a JD.

delaware law school outside

TJ Murphy: Your compliance programs are online. How integrated into the Widener University Delaware Law School community do your students feel?

Pam Kroh: While our programs provide online learning, it is not by any means independent learning.  Our students communicate electronically with their classmates every week within their courses through discussion threads.  Additionally, our faculty members hold regularly scheduled video web conferences where students interact live with their instructors and classmates.  Our faculty members are dedicated to the success of their students, and often stay in touch with their students long after the student has completed their course.  Students are welcome and encouraged to remain in touch with their faculty who are happy to provide mentorship and advice into the future.  

Eileen Grena: We remain in close contact with our online students on a regular basis.  Both of us, along with other faculty members, and students attend several of the same national compliance conferences every year and this provides an additional opportunity to interact and network with our students and gives them the opportunity to meet each other in person.  Each year, many of our online students attend our graduation commencement ceremony on campus in Wilmington, Delaware.  While this is not a bricks and mortar program, our students are a part of our academic community.  Our strong alumni play an important role as well, in communicating with both potential and current students to provide mentoring and personal career experiences.

TJ Murphy: Sounds like happy students and successful graduates! One last question: How does Delaware Law stand out relative to other schools where one would go for compliance specialization?

Pam Kroh: We are unique in that we offer an entirely online CCB-accredited program with the many options varying from the master’s degree to graduate-level certificate to enrichment courses.  In addition to the variety of degree levels from which a student may choose, we are further unique in that we offer several concentrations which include healthcare compliance, corporate compliance, global compliance, and we continue leading the way in compliance education by now offering higher education compliance. The variety of options allows students to tailor their educational experience to fit specific needs and goals. Delaware Law School is also the proud recipient of an award for excellence in creating compliance education.  Additionally, Delaware Law School stands out amongst others as an American Bar Association-approved law school.

TJ Murphy: This all sounds fascinating. One of the real pleasures we have at Gradschoolmatch is discovering all of these niche specializations that exist out there in the knowledge economy, and how great schools and programs exist to produce graduates with the expertise to fulfill the demand.

I’m also a firm believer in the idea that people looking for graduate degrees don’t always know what they are looking for until they see it for the first time. I imagine some of that will happen following this conversation because this sounds like a fascinating field of work. Thanks so much for your time today!

Eileen Grena: TJ, thank you so much for taking the time to highlight our programs.  You had excellent questions, which allowed us to truly explain our niche programs and we greatly appreciate all your support and excitement about educating graduate students about us. Have a wonderful weekend!

TJ Murphy: Thank you. You too!


Recessions Drive Rising Tuition and Privatization of Public Universities

effect of recession on net tuition
from State Higher Education Executive Officers Association SHEF FY2015 Report

The university system in the US struggles. After a prolonged period of rising enrollments, the tide seems to have turned. After peaking in 2011 both undergraduate and graduate enrollment are both on the decline. This is not a waning demographic bubble. Something else is going on.

This is especially problematic since, as a general rule, the costs of education delivery are largely fixed. The university solution is to distribute these costs across many students, some who pay very little in tuition and some who pay full retail, with many gradations between due to various scholarships. The net tuition is the sum of all tuition actually collected from students.

To the extent a university’s costs increase–for whatever reason–they are offset by the rising tuition paid by some students, and/or by increasing student enrollment. Yet, both of those solutions are now pretty much constrained. Rising tuition may have hit a ceiling.

Indeed, the current enrollment drop could be a signal from potential students to universities that they fail to see a value proposition.

Whereas private non-profit universities predominantly rely upon tuition revenue to offset educational costs, public universities do have the additional stream of state subsidies.

Yet these same public institutions have faced a decades-long pattern of diminishing state support. As a consequence, they’ve had no choice but to rely more and more upon rising tuition revenue to cover their costs of education.

I call this trend the “privatization” of public universities. Simply, as state support erodes the cost and behavior of public universities is more and more like that of private universities.

The rising tuition rates at public schools leaves some people costed out of higher education completely. For others who previously would have only considered public universities, private institutions become more attractive.

Second, public university recruitment and admissions practices become more selective, much like those at private schools. For example, many public universities develop programs to recruit higher paying out-of-state students, who sometimes end up in seats that would have otherwise been occupied by state residents. To digress briefly, this is self-defeating in the long run since it diminishes the political will within a state to support higher education.

The net effect from the student perspective is that the value proposition advantage that public universities once enjoyed is reduced. Indeed, the fact that more graduate students are now enrolled in private universities than in public universities pretty much establishes this case.

The big question is what fundamental force drives this privatization trend? I was struck by the figure above when reading the 2015 State Higher Education Finance report (pdf) which is produced by the  State Higher Education Executive Officers association. The data show quite dramatically how economic recessions drive public university privatization.

What’s truly remarkable is the episodic aspect of this pattern, repeated cycles of revenue disruption followed by periods of relative homeostasis.

It appears to work something like this: During recessions, state legislatures withdraw subsidies for higher education, presumably because state tax revenues are down. But lets not underestimate the degree to which the political climate drives the funding decisions and how this is enabled by the will of the electorate.

The public universities adjust by increasing tuition revenue. As the economy improves, the state legislators fail to return university subsidies to pre-recession levels of support, and thus the rising tuition matrix is embedded permanently in the overall university revenue structure.

A period of relative homeostasis ensues….until the next recession occurs and the cycle repeats.

To me, this doesn’t look like a pattern of out of control costs, nor does it look like a pattern of recklessly rising tuition and sticking it on students.

It looks to me, instead, like public universities making adjustments–and holding the line–to and against forces that they have little control over. When state legislatures withhold support, universities have no choice but to cost shift to students. Between recessions they appear to make a good effort to maintain a status quo by ensuring that they maintain net tuition revenue at a reasonably constant level.

However, peeking around the corner, if the pattern is not broken, these SHEEO data predict that we’re about 3 or 4 economic cycles from the point where public higher education in the US becomes, for all intents and purposes, completely privatized.