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When students are accepted into our graduate program with funding (which is the case with almost all of our students), they receive a letter that says that the University will pay their tuition and a stipend for 5 years (if the student is entering with a BA) or 4 years (if the student is entering with an MA). The letter then says that students may receive an additional year of funding if the student is making reasonable progress and if the Department’s budget allows.
Put simply, “reasonable progress” means that students who are awarded an additional year of funding must have progressed to a point so that there is a reasonable expectation that they can finish their PhD by the end of that additional year.
In practice, this guideline means that if a student has not completed his or her candidacy exams by Dec. 15th of their 5th year in the program (if they enter with a BA) or their 4th (if they enter with an MA), they will not receive an additional year. This cut-off is not arbitrary: it is hard to imagine a student being able to pass a candidacy exam, complete a final prospectus, draft all chapters of his or her dissertation, revise those chapters as necessary, and successfully defend the dissertation in 16 months.
The Department has developed a few tools to help students and faculty monitor students' progress to degree: a timeline (which can be accessed via the toolbar to the right), students' annual reports, and a faculty evaluation form. Together with the Department's enforcement of OSU's Graduate School's policies regarding time-to-degree, these tools are meant to ensure the following:
- students early in their program have a clear sense of whether they are on track to meet this guideline.
- students have a clear and full understanding of the program components they must meet to stay on track.
- students are not subject to financial upheaval after their final year of guaranteed funding.
- faculty have a formalized way of notifying the DGS or Graduate Coordinator of students who might be struggling in the program.
- the DGS and Graduate Coordinator have a formal mechanism to track student progress and thus may be able to notify students in time if they are falling behind.
- there is a formal process by which the DGS or a student’s advisor can intervene in cases when a student is falling behind.
The timeline provides students with an easy-to-understand guide that lets them know when, generally, they might expect to complete various aspects of our program. While we recognize that individual students will pass these “milestones” at different times, the timeline provides a rough standard, which we hope will allow students to plan ahead so that they do not fall so far behind that they are not eligible for an additional year of funding.
This timeline is, fundamentally, tied to funding. That is, a student and his or her advisor might decide that for personal and/or academic reasons, it is in the best interest of the student to move through the program more slowly than the timeline suggests. In such a case, the student and advisor still need to be aware of some of the implications of falling behind. These implications include the loss of office space in Denney Hall; the possible loss of the additional year of funding; and the expenses related to “continuous enrollment.”
Every student in the Ph.D. program will fill out an annual report by Nov. 15 each year. A copy of the report will be sent to the DGS and to the each student's advisor. The DGS will subsequently review each student’s report and will pay particular attention to those students out of coursework. This annual report fulfills a few important functions.
- The DGS and Graduate Coordinator will flag any student who seems to be falling behind and seems not on track to be eligible to apply for a final year of funding. The student and his or her advisor will then be notified of any concerns– hopefully at least a year if not more before the student applies for the additional year.
- The annual report is the primary mechanism by which the student applies for the additional year of funding. Students do not have to write an additional letter unless he or she would like to explain special circumstances. The DGS and Graduate Coordinator will review students’ annual reports each Fall and will be able to notify eligible students about their additional year of funding by the beginning of Spring semester before that additional year takes effect. All decisions about additional years of funding will be reviewed by the Chair.
- The Graduate Coordinator and DGS will use the information in the annual report for data gathering and reporting purposes. Thus, the information about publications, presentations, and awards will help us understand our students’ work and be able to report to the University about that work.
- The Graduate Coordinator and DGS will also use the information to help us field questions from individual students about their progress.
The online faculty evaluation form allows us to focus our attention on those students who need it. With this form, faculty may report on students at any point in the student’s program.
Though the form may filled out at any time, twice a year the Graduate Studies Coordinator will send out an email requesting that faculty fill out the online form if they would like to call our attention to a student or students.
Once a faculty member fills out a form regarding a student, the Director of Graduate Studies will inform the student of the faculty's assessment. The student will also have an opportunity to discuss the assessment with the DGS and, if the student wishes, submit a response to the faculty assessment.
Section 5.4 of OSU’s Graduate School Handbook stipulates that a “student who does not maintain reasonable progress toward a degree or who does not fulfill other graduate program requirements…may be denied further registration in that program by the Graduate School on the recommendation of the graduate studies committee chair.” It further states that “no student may be denied further registration in a graduate program without first being warned by the Graduate School that such action may take place. The Graduate School specifies the conditions the student must satisfy in order to demonstrate reasonable progress and to continue enrollment in the graduate program. Conditions consist of completion of course work or other requirements as approved by the graduate studies committee.”
The English Department will in some cases take advantage of the Graduate School’s mechanism to ensure students’ progress. If a student has fallen behind schedule and the DGS and the student’s advisor believe that the student would benefit from a rigid schedule to get back on track, the DGS will contact the Graduate School to ask them to send a letter of warning to the student. This letter will spell out the steps the student is required to complete to remain in good standing and stay registered.