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									                               Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Capstone Supervision, page 1 of 6

                             Minnesota State University, Mankato

                  Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Thesis and
                              Alternate Plan Paper Supervision

                   Proposed by Members of a Workgroup Appointed by the
                        Minnesota State Mankato Faculty Association
                                    Submitted Fall 2007

Workgroup Participants:

               Sue Ellen Bell, School of Nursing
               Steve Bohnenblust, Department of Health Science
               Jasper Hunt, Department of Educational Leadership
               Paul Hustoles, Department of Theatre and Dance
               Penny Knoblich, Department of Biological Sciences
               Kimberly O’Farrell, Department of Psychology
               Russ Palma, Department of Physics and Astronomy
               Richard Robbins, Department of English
               Marlene Tappe, Department of Health Science
               Chris Mickle, Director of Graduate Studies
               Anne Blackhurst, Interim Dean, Graduate Studies and Research

Context and Rationale:

Enhancing graduate education is an explicitly stated institutional goal and a strategic priority of
President Richard Davenport. The institution’s commitment to this goal is evident in the recent
addition of doctoral programs—which represent an historic evolution in the institution’s
mission—as well as in the development of several new master’s degree programs. This
commitment also resulted in the adoption of a new policy on Graduate Faculty Status, which
seeks to both delineate and elevate the qualifications for teaching and advising graduate students.

Nonetheless, the institution’s identity is rooted in its history as a teacher’s college and its long-
standing mission as an undergraduate institution. Despite a 50-year history of offering graduate
programs and our distinction as the first MnSCU institution to offer terminal degrees, the
university’s support for graduate education has not evolved at the same rate as its programs and
vision. In fact, as Minnesota State Mankato prepares to offer its first doctoral programs, there is
considerable evidence that the university’s structures and systems are not commensurate with its
status as a major provider of graduate education in the region. This failure to align institutional
vision and current practice will become even more problematic as the university pursues the
President’s long-term goal of increasing total enrollment to between 17,000 and 20,000 students.
Without a redoubled effort to adequately support graduate education, there is a serious risk that
the graduate enterprise will shrink both in size and prominence relative to undergraduate

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                                   Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Capstone Supervision, page 2 of 6

Closely aligned with the articulated goal of enhancing graduate education is President
Davenport’s desire to elevate the university’s reputation and profile—an aspiration that will
require increased research productivity on the part of faculty. Research will be key to achieving
the President’s long-range vision of becoming a flagship institution, as well as his goal of
substantially increasing enrollment. Indeed, market studies clearly indicate that it is research
(rather than teaching) that will distinguish the university from its competitors in the minds of
prospective students. The inexorable link between graduate education and faculty scholarship
was explicitly acknowledged in the recently implemented policy on Graduate Faculty Status—
albeit without an institutional mandate to compensate Research Faculty for their scholarly

The lack of compensation for Research Faculty is just one example of how the institutional
history and identity noted above have resulted in reward systems that provide financial
incentives for teaching while failing to adequately compensate scholarly activity. In addition,
the institution’s history as a baccalaureate institution, combined with its membership in a state
system dominated by community colleges, has resulted in institutional and contractual workload
assignments that do not adequately acknowledge the out-of-class time required to advise
graduate students and supervise their research projects. As the institution has increasingly
emphasized research productivity in the tenure and promotion process, advising graduate
students has become disadvantageous for faculty—who are already feeling pressured to balance
heavy teaching loads and their own research agendas.

Consequently, the number of programs requiring a thesis has decreased substantially over the
past decade1, while the number of programs permitting a capstone project other than a thesis or
an Alternate Plan Paper (APP) has increased to approximately 25% of all graduate programs.
These trends have decreased the number of graduate students who have meaningful research
experiences during their programs and reduced the opportunity for faculty to collaborate with
graduate students on projects that might eventually lead to publication. In short, a reward system
that effectively discourages thesis advisement is detrimental to both the goal of enhancing
graduate education and the goal of increasing institutional visibility by enhancing the quality and
quantity of research. It also effectively discourages applied research, which is the basis for many
theses and alternate plan papers, and is fundamental to our mission as a public comprehensive

Concerns about compensation for graduate faculty are not new. Similar concerns were raised by
the Task Force on Graduate Education in its 2005 Report, which outlined a vision for graduate
education at Minnesota State Mankato. In its recommendations, the Task Force called for
increasing the resources allocated to graduate education as well as support for faculty
scholarship. In particular, the Task Force cited the need for increased funding for reassigned
(research) time and financial support for faculty and student research. The Graduate Committee
has also raised this issue as recently as 2004, when it formed a subgroup to explore models of

  Currently, only 6 of Minnesota State Mankato’s more than 40 graduate programs require students to complete a

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                                    Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Capstone Supervision, page 3 of 6

In an effort to address these concerns and bring institutional resource allocation in line with
stated goals and priorities, the Interim Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, in consultation
with the Graduate Committee, recommended the formation of a Workgroup to propose a model
for compensating faculty for their supervision of graduate students. The Faculty Association
solicited nominations and applications in spring 2007 and ultimately appointed the Workgroup
members listed above.

Based on its meetings in May 2007, the Workgroup proposes a compensation model that would
at least tacitly acknowledge the time and effort faculty invest in graduate student supervision.
While the Workgroup investigated compensation systems at comparable institutions as well as
institutions we aspire to emulate, it should be noted that relatively few exemplary models exist
(see Table 1). In large part, this is because graduate faculty members at many institutions have
substantially lower teaching loads than at Minnesota State Mankato.

The Workgroup acknowledges the modest nature of this proposal and the fact that the proposed
plan does not begin to compensate faculty for the hundreds of hours they spend with students
over the course of their graduate programs. However, the Workgroup also acknowledges the
importance of presenting a plan that is practicable and financially feasible, reflects Minnesota
State Mankato’s unique history and culture, and lays the groundwork for compensating faculty
for previously uncompensated work. The details of the proposed plan are presented below.

Proposed Compensation Plan:

According to the proposed plan, faculty would earn points for serving as supervisors,
consultants, and readers on thesis and APP committees. Points would be awarded in the
semester of the student’s graduation, regardless of the semester in which the student registered
for thesis or APP credits. The Workgroup proposes that 80 points would be the equivalent of 1
credit hour; 240 points would therefore be the equivalent of a 3-credit course. Points would be
awarded as follows:

MFA Thesis Supervisor:                       40 points
MA/MS Thesis Supervisor:                     30 points
APP Supervisor:                              20 points
Consultant on an MA/MS Thesis2:               5 points (deducted from the Supervisor’s 30 points)
Other readers:                                2 points

Using the formula noted above, supervising an MFA thesis would be the equivalent of .50 credit
hours. Supervising an MA or MS thesis would be the equivalent of .375 credit hours, while
supervising an APP would be the equivalent of .25 credit hours. Thus, supervising 6 MFA
theses or 8 MA/MS theses or 12 Alternate Plan Papers would be compensated at the same rate as
teaching a 3-credit course. The higher point value awarded to MFA thesis supervision
acknowledges the terminal nature of the MFA degree as well as the intensive nature of creative
projects. Similarly, the point differential between the MA/MS thesis and the APP is intended to
acknowledge differences in the amount of faculty time and effort required to supervise these
  Refers to a committee member who provides specialized expertise (e.g., statistical analysis) and significant
consultation—beyond the time and effort than is typically expected by a second reader.

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                                  Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Capstone Supervision, page 4 of 6

projects. While these differences are difficult to quantify and are assumed to vary greatly from
student to student, the Workgroup attempted to devise a system that acknowledges typical

According to the proposed plan, faculty members could choose to be paid for their points at the
applicable overload rate (e.g., 1 MFA thesis = .5 credits x .0225 x faculty salary) or they could
choose to “bank” their points. Banked points could be redeemed either as salary or as reassigned
time, with approval of the faculty member’s department and Dean. Given the contractual limit
on overload, faculty members would not be able to redeem more than 5 credits (400 points)—
including overload from other sources—in a given academic year. In cases in which the faculty
member, the department, and the Dean agreed that the compensation should be in the form of
reassigned time, the department would be compensated at the faculty member’s overload rate
rather than the adjunct rate. This would provide a financial incentive for the department, which
would partially offset the burden of replacing the faculty member’s time.

Although the Workgroup was not charged with identifying funding sources for the proposed
compensation plan, one obvious source of funds is the tuition dollars generated by thesis and
APP credits, which total approximately $265,000 per academic year. The Workgroup proposes
that these funds be earmarked for faculty compensation and administered centrally through the
College of Graduate Studies and Research rather than through the individual Colleges. This will
ensure that the available pool of money is large enough to accommodate any discrepancies
between income and expenses that may occur within a given College in a given year, depending
on the number (and base salary) of faculty who choose to redeem their points. It will also free
the College Deans from the responsibility of administering the plan and/or funding it through a
reallocation of College resources. Finally, a centrally administered process will allow for
accurate recording keeping when committee members for a given thesis or APP represent more
than one College.

Table 2 includes an estimate of tuition dollars generated by thesis and APP credits and projects
the annual cost of compensating faculty according to the proposed plan. As noted in Table 2,
data from the 2005-2006 academic year suggest that the plan would cost roughly half of the
amount generated in tuition by thesis and APP credits.

  Departments in which faculty members supervise capstone projects other than theses or APPs may choose to
submit their capstone requirements to the Graduate Committee for review. Upon review and recommendation of the
Graduate Committee, approved projects may be compensated at either the thesis or the APP rate.

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                              Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Capstone Supervision, page 5 of 6

Table 1: Sample Compensation Models

           Institution                                        Compensation

Boise State University              1 course release for every 5 MFA theses supervised

Central Michigan University         1 course release for every 4 MFA theses supervised

Eastern Michigan University         1 course release for every 7 MFA theses supervised

Northern Michigan University
     MA/MS Thesis Supervisor: $400.00 per thesis or 1 course release for every 8 theses
        MFA Thesis Supervisor: $800.00 per thesis or 1 course release for every 4 theses
   MA/MS/MFA Thesis Reader: $200.00 per thesis or 1 course release for every 16 theses

Towson University                   $600.00 per M.A. thesis supervised

University of Akron                 1 course release for every 6 theses supervised

University of St. Thomas            $400.00 per MFA theses supervised

Western Illinois University         $500.00 per thesis supervised

Connecticut State System            1 course release for every 6 theses supervised

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                                  Proposal to Compensate Graduate Faculty for Capstone Supervision, page 6 of 6

Table 2: Projected Annual Revenues and Expenditures

                                                            2005-2006 Data

                           Number of                                    Number of
                            Credits            Tuition Dollars          Graduating           Dollar Amount
Project:                   Generated             Generated               Students             in Overload4

MFA Thesis                       *                      *                     17                       $13,396

MA/MS Thesis                   741                      $196,365             120                       $70,800

APP                            257                          $68,105          117                       $46, 098

Total                          998                      $264,470             254                     $130, 294

* MFA thesis credits are included in the total for MA/MS thesis credits.

  Assumes (a) an average faculty salary of $70,000; (b) the point values described above; and (c) the overload
formula of .0225 x salary x credits. A faculty member with a base salary of $70,000 would earn $788 for each MFA
thesis supervised. Each MA/MS thesis would equal $590 and each APP would equal $394.

                                                                                             September 14, 2007

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