Coming: A New Appreciation For The Social Benefits Of Graduate Education The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted just about every aspect of higher education. Student enrollments, institutional finances, teaching techniques, and faculty and staff engagement have all been dramatically altered. Predicting how severe and how long the changes will be is hazardous, but one component of higher education.
that may earn itself new respect and recognition – even as it is transformed in ways yet unknown – is graduate education. The individual advantages of earning a graduate or professional degree are well documented: higher earnings, paid benefits, stable employment, and better health. But the social benefits – the several ways graduate education contributes to the public good – are less often recognized. That imbalance is likely to change in the near future, as the spread of the coronavirus sweeps across the nation.
, and the knowledge and expertise acquired through advanced education become increasingly important to local communities and the nation as a whole. Here are three categories of public dividends, or social contributions, conveyed by graduate education that are the payoffs the nation will need as it copes with and recovers from the virus’s devastating effects. Professional Expertise needs in the wake of the virus. Already we are seeing examples of mental health complications among front-line clinicians who are reporting horrendous scenes of being overwhelmed by sick and dying patients.
Graduate degrees, particularly at the master’s level, are replacing the BA/BS as the essential entry-level credential in many fields. Mental health and allied health disciplines are prime examples, and both areas are certain to see dramatically increased volume in service.
The emotional trauma and number of PTSD cases among their ranks are projected to grow as the pandemic increases its toll. Counselors, psychologists, social workers, and substance use disorder specialists will also see a surge of cases among first-responders and the population in general. And these consequences will last long after the peak of the pandemic has passed.
Master’s programs in Public Health, Epidemiology, Health Communications, Health Care Administration, Biostatistics, Logistics, Learning Technology, Area Studies, Economics, and Informatics are some of the areas where the need for more expertise is also obvious. One immediate example: Graduate students in public health at the University of Arizona are already assisting county health departments by answering the overflow of calls from the public about the pandemic. The demand for this kind of expertise will only grow.
Graduate students in the biological and health sciences work as research assistants in university labs where much of their scientific training takes place. Today, they are the front-liners; tomorrow, they will be our science leaders.
We’re accustomed to university laboratories and scientists being the nation’s innovation engine. They’re where pacemakers were developed (University of Minnesota), where the idea of seat belts was formed (Cornell), and where a patent for fluoride toothpaste was awarded (Indiana University), to name just a few important inventions.Coming: A New Appreciation For The Social Benefits Of Graduate Education
Now, just a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, university researchers and their graduate students are leading the way with clinical trials, drug development, disease tracking, and virus testing. New avenues of research open daily.
Clinical trials of the anti-viral drug remdesivir are underway at academic health centers, such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a joint effort between the University of California San Diego and other UC medical centers at Irvine, Davis and San Francisco.
A team from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University and the University of California, Riverside have mapped a protein (Nsp 15) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Researchers in Harvard’s Precision Vaccines Program is working on a COVID-19 vaccine targeted at older populations. A multidisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students with the Tulane National Primate Research Center are creating a nonhuman primate model to study the disease’s clinical progression and transmission.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, AAMC, researchers at the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Columbia and the University of North Carolina are working fervently to develop tests to detect the virus. A Rutgers team is developing a rapid test based on saliva samples.
Johns Hopkins University created an online COVID-19 Global Cases Tracker that displays the spread of the virus around the world and in individual cities. Available since January 22, the dashboard was built by Professor Lauren Gardner and her graduate student Ensheng Dong.
A team at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), led by microbiologist Robert Davey, is now conducting research on live samples of the novel coronavirus.
Individuals with graduate degrees are more likely than those with less education to engage in behaviors that strengthen and sustain communities, contributions that will be sorely needed as America recovers – physically, socially and economically – from the pandemic.
Graduate degree holders instrument their social consciousness in several ways, all to the benefit of society. Compared to adults with baccalaureate degrees, they
- donate on average about a thousand dollars a year more in charitable contributions;
- participate more often in civic, service, school and religious groups;
- engage in more unpaid volunteer activities.
- Another effect of advanced education is that the economic benefits of
Since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people over age 25 with a master’s degree has doubled to 21 million; the number of adults with a doctoral degree has more than doubled to 4.5 million. And unlike undergraduate enrollment, graduate enrollment has continued to increase in recent years – albeit slowly. Whether that trend will be sustained in the near future is questionable, even given the tendency for graduate enrollments to increase during tough economic cycles.
What is certain is that the social goods associated with graduate education – professional expertise, valuable discoveries, and community improvement – will be sorely needed as the nation begins its comeback.Coming: A New Appreciation For The Social Benefits Of Graduate Education