As discussed in the preceding chapters, the single most important way to ensure high-quality Department of Defense (DoD) graduate science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and management (STEM+M) education outcomes is to preserve a blended portfolio of education sources that includes the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), other military education institutions, and civilian institutions. Chapter 3 describes the educational value proposition offered by AFIT and NPS. The first section of this chapter emphasizes the need for and benefits of graduate STEM+M education from civilian institutions.
Historically, military Services have used a combination of Service schools and civilian universities to educate its officer corps. The Army, which does not have its own graduate STEM+M educational institution, primarily uses civilian universities for graduate officer education, although it does use NPS and AFIT for a portion of its officers. In each of the past 3 years, an average of approximately 210 U.S. Army personnel have been enrolled in these schools (see Table 3-2 in Chapter 3). The Navy and the Air Force rely primarily on their respective graduate schools for the majority of their STEM+M-related graduate officer education needs. However, both Services also use civilian universities graduate programs if, for example, a re-
quired degree program is not offered by their Service schools. Both AFIT and NPS are responsible for managing officers enrolled in civilian institutions. Graduates for each Service from fiscal year (FY) 2010 through 2013 are shown in Table 4-1.
The Navy uses civilian universities to cover specific areas not offered at NPS, such as facilities and ocean engineering, operational oceanography, petroleum management, Naval construction and engineering, and nuclear engineering. Almost all of the degrees are master’s degrees, with Ph.D.s representing just over 1 percent of the total. The Air Force also uses civilian institutions in areas not covered at AFIT at the master’s level in numbers similar to the Navy. However, the Air Force also sends a significant number of officers for Ph.D. programs to civilian
TABLE 4-1 Institutions That Have Conferred Degrees to SMART Scholars
|Doctoral Degree Institutions||Master’s Degree Institutions|
|University of Florida||12||Georgia Institute of Technology||12|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||9||University of California, San Diego||12|
|Purdue University||8||Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||11|
|Texas A&M University||7||Stanford University||10|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||7||Utah State University||8|
|Arizona State University||6||University of Central Florida||7|
|North Carolina State University||6||Brigham Young University||6|
|Pennsylvania State University||6||Columbia University||6|
|University of Central Florida||6||University of Florida||6|
|University of Michigan, Ann Arbor||6||University of Maryland, College Park||5|
|University of Washington||6||University of Utah||5|
|Auburn University, Main Campus||4||University of Wisconsin, Madison||5|
|Clemson University||4||Auburn University, Main Campus||4|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||4||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||4|
|University of California, Santa Barbara||4||Stevens Institute of Technology||4|
|University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign||4||University of Michigan, Ann Arbor||4|
|University of Maryland, College Park||4||University of Pennsylvania||4|
|University of Texas, Austin||4||University of Texas, Austin||4|
|Vanderbilt University||4||Air Force Institute of Technology||3|
|Brigham Young University||3||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||3|
|Carnegie Mellon University||3||Pennsylvania State University||3|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||3||Purdue University||3|
|Naval Postgraduate School||3||San Diego State University||3|
|University of Connecticut||3||Texas A&M University||3|
|University of New Mexico, Main Campus||3||University of California, Berkeley||3|
|University of Wisconsin, Madison||3||University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
University of Kansas
University of Southern California
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
SOURCE: Laura Stubbs (Senior Executive Service), Director, S&T Initiatives and STEM Development Office, OASD(R&E)/Research Directorate, “SMART 101,” presentation to the committee on November 8, 2013.
universities. In fact, the number of Air Force officers sponsored for doctoral education at civilian universities historically has exceeded that at AFIT. A significant number of these officers are slated for faculty positions at either AFIT or the Air Force Academy. Both institutions, as well as their respective Service academies, while valuing AFIT and NPS graduates on their faculties, seek to have faculty with backgrounds from a number of institutions. Indeed, most quality universities draw the vast majority of their faculty from numerous other quality universities to avoid becoming too ingrown.1
Civilian universities play an important part in educating military officers from all Services. Even though the Navy and the Air Force operate their own graduate schools, they rely on civilian schools to provide quality education, particularly in areas not covered by DoD institutions; in the case of the Air Force, civilian schools provide a breadth of background for faculty at both AFIT and the Air Force Academy.
Finding 4-1. Quality civilian universities are a valuable source of STEM+M graduate education for all civilian and military DoD employees. For officers, they provide education in disciplines not covered by AFIT and NPS, as well as education for prospective military faculty at AFIT, NPS, and the Service academies. Because few DoD civilians attend AFIT or NPS, civilian universities are essential for their graduate education. DoD would be well served to continue to rely heavily on civilian institutions for its graduate STEM+M education needs.
Recommendation 4-1. The Department of Defense should continue and expand support for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and management graduate education of its officers and civilian employees at civilian universities.
1 The symbiotic link described between AFIT, NPS, and their respective Service academies led the committee to consider the possibility of integrating these institutions, much like the way the vast majority of public and private civilian universities operate. This option was posed to speakers and debated during committee meetings. The overwhelming majority of those asked argued against combining the institutions out of concern that appending a graduate school focused on research and education would potentially compromise the unique training and education mission of the academies. Therefore, the committee did not seriously consider this option. Conversely, university faculty members liked the idea of graduate-level-only institutions and the corresponding reduction/ increase in their teaching/research responsibilities. However, they pointed out that undergraduate programs typically subsidize graduate programs, which in many cases are money-losing propositions. AFIT and NPS are subsidized by Service budgets.
The Navy and Air Force established an alliance between NPS and AFIT via a memorandum of agreement dated December 4, 2002.2 The goals of the alliance, as stated in the agreement, were as follows:
•Ensure officers continue to receive high-quality, relevant, and responsive graduate education aligned to defense needs,
•Prevent unnecessary duplication, while sustaining excellence at NPS and AFIT,
•Ensure efficient operation of both institutions, while maintaining each as a “world-class” higher education institution underpinned by its unique Service heritage and character,
•In combination, provide a Joint educational environment in which officers from all of the Services will engage in education and research programs.
The alliance was to be overseen by the NPS Board of Advisors and the Air University’s Board of Visitors (BOV). The agreement suggested that, over time, these two boards might be replaced by a single BOV that could serve as the governing board for both NPS and AFIT. The agreement further stipulated that, as initial actions, NPS would terminate its aeronautical engineering curriculum in favor of sending officers to AFIT’s program, and that AFIT would terminate its meteorology and acquisition (management) curricula and send the students to NPS. These joint curricula were to be overseen by joint oversight boards, each headed by a general officer of the Service losing the program.
The 2002 agreement also stated that the Air Force and the Navy should, after seats were filled at either NPS or AFIT in a particular field of study, give priority to sending their students to the other institution before sending those students to civilian universities.3 To implement this policy, AFIT and NPS, in coordination with the staffs of the other Services, to include the Marine Corps, Army, and Coast Guard, were directed to form a joint admissions and quota control process.4 Following establishment of the agreement, NPS and AFIT closed the designated programs and began sending students to the other school. Joint oversight boards were formed and met to ensure that transitioned curricula met Service needs, and the superintendent (later, president) of NPS was added to the Air University (AU) BOV and the commander of AU (later, the AU president) became a member of the NPS BOV. The suggestion in the agreement that these two boards might merge at
2 Memorandum of Agreement Forming an Educational Alliance between the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Air Force, December 4, 2002.
a future date did not happen. Further, it appears that the Air Force gave priority to sending students to NPS in areas such as foreign area studies and business, where NPS offered curricula and AFIT did not. Whether a joint admission and quota control process involving all Services was formed is not clear. In the committee’s discussions with both the Navy and Air Force personnel responsible for the quota process within their respective Services, neither mentioned any interaction with the other Services in determining their quotas.
In 2004, 2 years after the agreement was signed, AFIT had 47 Navy students enrolled in its master’s program in aeronautical engineering, and NPS had 87 Air Force students enrolled in a variety of programs, including 76 master’s students in STEM+M programs. Despite initially positive trends, other than initial actions both schools took to close programs at AFIT and NPS, it appears little was accomplished to complete the goals of the alliance. Oversight of the alliance, which was to come from the AU BOV and the NPS BOV, was ineffective in moving the alliance along. Establishing a successful alliance may have been difficult under the best of conditions, but it is important to note that the difference in the institutional nature of AFIT and NPS certainly made it more difficult. That is, as was mentioned in Chapter 3, NPS is a stand-alone institution, while AFIT is considered by AU, and governed, as a college of AU. Thus, responsibility and authority for oversight of the alliance was vested with AU, not AFIT. In effect, the alliance was between AU and NPS. Many argue that the inability of AFIT and NPS to work as equal partners impaired the alliance from its start.
In 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission considered options of privatizing or realigning (combining at one location) AFIT and NPS. The commission, in rejecting the options to privatize or combine the institutions, noted that “such actions could potentially degrade the military value of both institutions and the quality of their program graduates.”5 The commission also discussed the alliance between AFIT and NPS, stating:
The Commission finds that, under its present charter, the joint service Educational Alliance has no authority to impose change regardless of the findings of its study groups. As a result, the tough issues mentioned above that could result in significant savings and improvement remain unaddressed. The Commission believes that rather than continuing as two schools focused on individual service needs, they can and need to be transformed into a joint program with two schools working together to meet joint needs. The Commission finds that an empowered Board free from individual service branch and school institutional pressures could address issues facing the schools and provide the non-service focused direction needed to transform the Naval Postgraduate School and Air Force Institute of Technology into a truly joint system of education.
5 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission Report, Vol. I, submitted to President George W. Bush on September 8, 2005, http://www.brac.gov/docs/final/Volume1BRACReport.pdf, pp. 188-189.
The BRAC Commission then recommended the creation of
A new and permanent oversight board responsible for curriculum review and approval, and program development for the resident and non-resident degree-granting programs at both schools. This Board, consisting of an equal number of members from the governing boards of each school, civilian education authorities recommended by the U.S. Secretary of Education, and other education officials as designated by the Secretary of Defense, will be chartered by the office of the Secretary of Defense and will provide a formal report of its actions and accomplishments to that office bi-annually. The Board’s duties will consist of those actions listed as “Goals” in the Memorandum of Agreement that formed an Educational Alliance between the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy on December 4, 2002. This Board will be located in the National Capital Region. By this recommendation, the newly formed board will also have the authority to:
•Take action to eliminate unnecessary curricula and program duplication;
•Identify, approve, and implement programs of collaboration in research and instruction between the schools; and
•Expand nonresident programs and arrangements with private institutions of higher learning to meet common curriculum and non-Department of Defense focused class requirements.6
During visits to NPS and AFIT, there was little evidence of a working alliance between the schools, or of the oversight board required by the BRAC recommendation. Each school indicated interactions with the other, primarily in research, but there was no indication that it was due to any formal alliance. Neither institution appears to have reinstituted programs that were moved as part of the agreement, but the Navy’s requirements in aeronautical engineering have dropped dramatically: only four (two in aeronautical engineering) Navy students were enrolled at AFIT in 2013. In contrast, 112 Air Force students were enrolled at NPS in 2013. The administrations of both institutions were aware of the dramatic change in student numbers but did not offer explanations. They also stated that the alliance had received little attention for a number of years. Both schools also mentioned they were addressing the issue and had been meeting with the goal of revitalizing the alliance but offered no vision of what they hoped to accomplish or of any concrete progress.
Finding 4-2. The effectiveness and efficiency of AFIT and NPS can be increased by significantly enhanced collaboration and building on the strengths of the two organizations. This was recognized by the Air Force and Navy in the December 4, 2002, memorandum of agreement “Forming an Educational Alliance between the
6 Ibid., p. 189; also Appendix Q, Sec. 197, p. Q-96.
Department of the Navy and the Department of the Air Force” and also by the findings and recommendation of the 2005 BRAC Commission, which called for establishing a “permanent oversight board responsible for curriculum review and approval, and program development for the resident and non-resident degree-granting programs at both schools,”7 which would be chartered by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and have substantial authority.
Recommendation 4-2. The Department of Defense should implement the recommendation of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (Appendix Q, Section 197) to establish an empowered oversight board for the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Naval Postgraduate School, reporting to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
AFIT, the University of Dayton (UD), and Wright State University (WSU) formed the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute (DAGSI) in 1995 to provide master’s- and doctoral-level students at each institution, with access to engineering and computer science courses of study offered at any partner school.8 A student entering one of these institutions can apply for a DAGSI scholarship, is encouraged to cross-register for courses at one of the other partners, and may get involved in collaborative research with other institutions. Table 4-2 provides data on the courses taken by AFIT and non-AFIT studies as part of DAGSI starting in academic year 2008.
According to the DAGSI website: “All DAGSI students are graduate-level and must be degree-seeking”9 and “DAGSI itself is not a degree-granting institution. Each graduate engineering student is enrolled at and will receive a degree from one partner institution, AFIT, UD, or WSU, referred to as the home institution. Each partner is fully accredited in its M.S. and Ph.D. programs.”10 Broad guidelines are given in part as follows:11
•Each DAGSI student must meet all requirements of the Home Institution that would pertain to any other graduate student enrolled in a similar program.
•Each DAGSI student must complete at least 50 percent of the courses in his or her approved program of study at the Home Institution.
7 Memorandum of Agreement, 2002.
10 DAGSI, “General Program Information,” accessed February 14, 2014.
11 DAGSI, “General Program Information,” accessed February 14, 2014.
TABLE 4-2 Graduates of Civilian Universities via Air Force Institute of Technology and Naval
NOTE: The civilian institutes over this time period awarding the largest number of Ph.D. degrees are the Naval Postgraduate School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Washington, and Rice University. AFIT counts NPS as a civilian institute. FY, fiscal year.
SOURCE: Data from the Air Force Institute of Technology and the Naval Postgraduate School.
•Thesis or dissertation credits always will be taken at the Home Institution, and the chairperson or principal advisor of the DAGSI student’s advisory committee will be appointed from the faculty of the Home Institution. However, any member of the graduate faculty of DAGSI’s partner institutions may be appointed as a full voting member to a thesis or dissertation committee.
Evidently, participation in DAGSI enhances both AFIT’s capacity and its range of capabilities. It also strengthens ties between Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFB) and the Dayton community.
AFIT also has agreements with the University of New Mexico (UNM) and Loyola Marymount University, according to its website.12 UNM has had a long history of providing Kirtland AFB personnel with quality STEM+M graduate education degrees. AFIT and UNM signed an agreement that encouraged each university to offer programs with up to one-half of the course credits coming from the other school. The first program offered under those provisions was a UNM M.S. in electrical engineering, which contained 16 credit hours of systems engineering course work from AFIT (offered through distance learning). NPS also has agreements with other universities. It is unclear to what extent any of these agreements, aside from DAGSI, are used by either institution.
Objectively, AFIT and NPS are small institutions with limited capacity and single geographic locations. Partnerships with other capable universities would allow them to better serve military personnel who have educational requirements that cannot be met at AFIT and NPS or who are unable to attend classes on the AFIT or NPS campuses. University partnerships might complement collaborations
12 For additional information, see Air Force Institute of Technology, “Distance Learning Programs,” http://www.afit.edu/en/dl/distancelearning.cfm?a=programs, accessed February 13, 2014.
with DoD laboratories located far from AFIT and NPS but close to local universities, as discussed in the next section. Such partnerships might leverage both schools’ distance learning capabilities, also discussed in this chapter. For instance, one could imagine a graduate program in high-power microwaves delivered in partnership by AFIT and UNM, with some or all of the AFIT courses delivered by distance learning and the thesis research performed at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Kirtland AFB.
Finding 4-3. AFIT effectively uses its partnership with universities in Dayton, Ohio, to enhance its capacity and capabilities. Both AFIT and NPS have partnerships with other universities, but little evidence has been offered that they are used extensively.
Recommendation 4-3. The Air Force Institute of Technology and the Naval Postgraduate School should establish and use a limited number of partnerships with quality universities located near Department of Defense (DoD) installations or that otherwise possess unique partnering benefits. They should leverage distance learning tools and methods to exploit these partnerships, and in conjunction with DoD laboratories, provide a wider range of quality degrees that are available at remote locations (i.e., not Dayton or Monterey) and accessible to additional military personnel.
AFIT and NPS have, as part of DoD, the advantage of access to a wide variety of excellent DoD laboratories. The variety and quality of these facilities represents an opportunity to enhance the research at the schools and increase their outreach to the larger DoD community. AFIT takes great advantage of the AFRL laboratories at Wright-Patterson AFB, and to lesser extent AFRL laboratories at other locations, most notably the high-energy laser facilities at Kirtland AFB. NPS appears to take little advantage of other Naval laboratory facilities. Conducting thesis research at DoD and, conceivably, other laboratories could enhance degree quality in some disciplines while increasing AFIT and NPS capacity. To the extent students are able to perform thesis research in the locale to which they would next be assigned, the quality of the research and the impact of the student in his or her assignment would be enhanced. Recent Rand Corporation studies emphasized the value to
Finding 4-4. AFIT effectively uses the Wright-Patterson AFB component of AFRL to strengthen its graduate education program, employing its experimental facilities for thesis research and its technical staff as adjunct professors. AFIT’s collaborations with other components of AFRL, however, are not as robust. Finally, it appears that NPS does not significantly collaborate with DoD laboratories.
Recommendation 4-4. The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) should permit their graduate students to conduct thesis research at Department of Defense laboratories and other suitable locations when doing so provides a quality education. AFIT and NPS should also involve adjunct professors drawn from those organizations to help guide and supervise graduate students. Effective distance learning tools and methods should be leveraged to reduce costs and enhance the education experience.
The terms of reference for this study specifically ask for “the ability of private15 non-Department of Defense institutions or distance-learning programs to meet the needs identified” [emphasis added] (see Appendix A). In addition to non-DoD institutions, distance-learning (DL) programs within the military, specifically at AFIT and NPS, were examined, including the ability of these programs to contribute to meeting identified educational needs.
Distance learning is, of course, not a new topic; “correspondence courses” date back to the early 1700s. Both computer-aided instruction and educational video started in the 1960s. But the pace of adoption of DL has exploded in the past decade with the rise of Internet-based education and the continued pressures to meet the needs of more students, more efficiently and more effectively. There is no generally accepted taxonomy of DL strategies and methods, and there is a wide range of practice. Box 4-1 provides two examples to illustrate the diversity of DL.
13 T.L. Terry, A.A. Robbert, J.E. Boon, Jr., P. Shameem Firoz, and S.C. Moore, A Methodology for Determining Air Force Education Requirements Board (AFERB) Advanced Academic Degree (AAD) Requirements, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif., http://www.rand.org/pubs.html, 2013.
15 “Private” is interpreted to mean both public and private civilian institutions, as opposed to those institutions maintained by DoD, such as the Naval Postgraduate School and the Air Force Institute of Technology.
BOX 4-1 Examples of Distance Learning
Example 1: A remote student participates in a live class via video link.
This style of distance learning is:
• Synchronous—happening live, in real time, with the interaction with other students and the professor.
• Blended—a mix of students taking the whole course in person, and other students taking the whole course by distance.
• Relatively low technology—no special preparation tasks for the professor.
Example 2: A student participates via a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) with fully automated computer-based instruction.
This style is:
• Asynchronous—students able to take the course at their own schedule.
• High technology—considerable effort given to preparing courseware, setting up automated grading and assessment, perhaps creating forums for class discussions.
Other possibilities include the following:
• Hybrid—the entire class meets in person one or more times, for example, at the beginning to form a cohort and start the class. The rest of the class proceeds by distance.
• Flipped—asynchronous technology for students to watch lectures and otherwise prepare before class, with in-person class time used for collaborative problem-solving.
• Computer-based tutoring—the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University1 has built tutors that model the cognitive processes of the students. If the student gets a particular wrong answer, the OLI tutors know at which step of the problem the student made an error, and can provide more examples of that particular step.
1 M. Lovett, O. Meyer, and C. Thille, The Open Learning Initiative: Measuring the effectiveness of the OLI statistics course in accelerating student learning, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, May 2008.
A DL course designer need not always pick a single alternative; often, the course delivery uses a mixture of methods. For example, a student taking a blended course in person may refer to the online archive to review the lecture later; a live professor may use very sophisticated technology to illustrate particular points; and students in a hybrid class may meet with each other in small cohorts between the in-person meetings of the entire class.
There is no single format that creates the “best” DL experience. Synchronous courses are the closest to an in-person experience; but the convenience of an asynchronous format may make it easier for a student to complete the course. Personal
interaction with a professor or teaching assistant works best for some students; others prefer the anonymity (and patience!) of a computer tutoring interface. The field continues to evolve rapidly. However, the key to any distance program, as in any educational program, is assessment: How do individual students receive feedback on their learning and guidance on how to improve? How does the course designer receive feedback on the progress of the students and guidance on how to improve the course?
Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), in particular, have received an increasing amount of attention, both for their potential to reach more students at a reduced cost, and for the level of effort that will be required to ensure quality. For example, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology released a letter to the President in December 2013 on MOOCS.16 In their judgment:
To be truly successful in promoting both expansion of access and improvement in the quality of education, the MOOCs and their relatives will need to (1) employ excellent technology, (2) foster excellent pedagogy, (3) apply the results of learning science, (4) deploy new techniques of big data analysis to provide rapid feedback to teachers and learners, and (5) cultivate an online social ecosystem to enhance peer-to-peer learning and teaching. Although the jury is out, and there are legitimate reasons to be skeptical, PCAST believes that all of these conditions for success can potentially be met.17
In a distance setting, assessment of an individual student is somewhat more complicated than in person. For a formal credit-bearing course, it is important to ensure that the student is the one doing the work, turning in assignments, and taking the tests. A small cottage industry has sprung up of testing centers, conveniently located near where students live, that will check the students’ identification and proctor exams. More generally, the feedback the student receives may be the same as in a classroom (papers graded by the instructor or graders), through interactions with other students (peer assessment), or fully automated (computer-based testing).
Assessment feedback to the professor takes several forms and may consider the following questions: Have the students achieved their learning objectives? What percentage of students actually completes the course? What are the most difficult parts of the course for them? These are the same questions for a traditional in-person course, but the remedies for any difficulties uncovered may be much different. Given proper assessment and careful course design, the literature supports claims that distance education can be as effective as in-person education. Studies
16 Executive Office of the President, President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), “Letter Report on Education Technology,” December 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/pcast/docsreports.
17 Executive Office of the President, PCAST, “Letter Report on Education Technology,” 2013.
Both AFIT and NPS offer courses by distance. From 2005 to 2013, the average on-board enrollment in NPS DL STEM programs rose steadily from 227 to 662. Similarly, the enrollment in NPS DL management programs increased from 240 to 342. The DL programs offer degrees in 7 fields of information science, 11 engineering disciplines, and 6 specialties in management. Over the past 5 years, 1,524 DL degrees have been conferred in STEM+M. Some of the DL students working on degrees from NPS have the advantages of cohorts of students working together, with synchronous interactions with the faculty. Navy sites at China Lake and Point Mugu in California and in Patuxent River, Maryland, all have enough distance students to have cohorts of students and visits from faculty in a “hybrid” distance model. Other students, such as those deployed on submarines, can work asynchronously, with the courses sent to them ahead of time on compact disk or made downloadable over the Internet. However, studies show that under these circumstances, degree completion is more difficult, and the dropout rate is higher.
NPS spends significant effort to enable its distance cohorts to succeed. It reports that there is more variation cohort-to-cohort than distance-to-residential. AFIT also offers master’s degrees by distance, but on a much smaller scale. Over the past 4 years, it averaged 14 new students enrolled in distance education M.S. degrees each year. Both NPS and AFIT offer many non-credit distance courses for certificates or for continuing education. While those courses are beyond the scope of this study, they do provide evidence of economies of scale for building the in-house capabilities (human and equipment) for distance education.
As implied by the above examples, distance education is better used in some settings than in others. Course-based master’s degrees or professional master’s degrees (discussed at the end of this chapter) are more easily delivered by distance than are thesis-based or research-based degrees. A research-based degree may take special efforts to find a way to supervise and evaluate the research remotely;
18 U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, Washington, D.C., 2010.
19 W.G. Bowen, M.M. Chingos, K.L. Lack, and T.I. Nygren, Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials, ITHAKA S+R, New York, N.Y, May 22, 2012.
20 I.E. Allen and J. Seaman, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, LLC, January 2013.
21 J. Beckem and M. Watkins, Bringing life to learning: Immersive experiential learning simulations for online and blended courses, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 16(5):61-70, 2012.
22 N. Xiaopeng, S.S. Diomede, and S.R. Rutland, Effects of using the quality matters (QM) programme as an intervention for online education. International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments 1(1):93-105, 2013.
although, as discussed earlier, research performed at DoD laboratories is a viable option. Any organization offering distance education would, ideally, stay current on new developments in distance technology and techniques. For example, Georgia Institute of Technology’s recently announced M.S. in computer science, borrowing tools from the MOOCs, is an experiment that will inform the whole distance education community on what works and what needs refinement in reaching hundreds of M.S. students. 23 Carnegie Mellon University’s OLI pushes further into intelligent interactive tutoring software.24 It is not clear yet how these tools will evolve. All that can be said for certain is that more change is coming, and AFIT and NPS will need to stay alert to make sure they have access to the best methods as they develop. AFIT and NPS understand this context and already provide quality DL programs.
Finding 4-5. Distance education is rapidly expanding in the number of courses offered and in the quality of education provided. NPS has successfully taught many of its degree programs by distance education; AFIT has offered more certificate programs and fewer degree programs. Increased use of distance courses will offer much more flexibility to DoD personnel to attain advanced degrees, especially for those unable to relocate to AFIT or NPS.
Recommendation 4-5. The Department of Defense (DoD) should increase the use of distance education for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and management degrees. Specifically, the Air Force should invest in converting some Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) M.S. degrees to be offered by distance learning, face-to-face, or any of the varieties of blended and hybrid delivery. In addition, AFIT and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) should consider offering joint degrees, or joint courses, taught in person on one campus and by distance learning on the other. Finally, NPS and AFIT should use distance offerings to enable their students to be in residence at one of the DoD laboratories for their research while taking courses from their home universities.
Military tuition assistance is designed for military personnel, which is administered slightly differently by each Service, pays for part-time education for those not selected to attend one of the full-time sponsored education programs. The bulk of military tuition assistance funds go to enlisted men and women for completing undergraduate degrees. In FY2012, 538,000 people (Service members and their families) participated in the Voluntary Education Program, resulting in the award
of 33,000 associate degrees, 9,600 bachelor’s degrees, 5,800 master’s degrees, and 27 doctorates.
There are many advantages to military tuition assistance for graduate education. For example, military tuition assistance is an employee benefit, paying for education and therefore attracting and retaining military personnel who want to further their education. It is also a way to fund a master’s degree for those who wish to become career officers. It appears to be the practice, although not a stated requirement, that military officer promotion to field grade rank requires a master’s degree (often funded by military tuition assistance), without any specification of degree subject. Finally, military tuition assistance provides an avenue for education for those who cannot be selected for full-time study because of their specialty—e.g., pilots who cannot leave their flying career for a year for full-time study.
There are three major drawbacks to military tuition assistance, as currently configured. First, the limited funds available per course (currently $250 per semester credit hour) are much less than the tuition charged by top-ranked programs, whether from private or public institutions. This encourages military personnel on limited budgets to pursue lower-cost alternatives, which are not usually the best programs. Second, military tuition assistance does not align tuition benefits with military needs. There is no incentive given to officers to complete a graduate degree in a field that would benefit the Services. Of course, any ongoing study produces a better-educated individual. But, if DoD needs more STEM+M-educated officers, there is no military tuition assistance mechanism to encourage STEM+M programs. Third, AFIT and NPS can accept military tuition assistance funds but cannot retain them and, therefore, are unable to support students using military tuition assistance funds. As long as military tuition assistance is considered a benefit, those courses are not viewed as “job related” and therefore fall outside the scope of the charters of AFIT and NPS. Without access to the Services’ graduate schools, students’ access to classes that are tailored to military needs, use military-relevant examples, and are taught by military faculty is limited. This combination of drawbacks creates a large gap between the education of those using military tuition assistance and of those selected for full-time sponsored study at AFIT, NPS, or a civilian institution.
A modest change to military tuition assistance procedures could yield great benefits for the military, as well as for military personnel seeking STEM graduate degrees. It would start by defining a set of fields of study that are most relevant to the military. These would certainly include STEM+M fields, but may also include foreign affairs and other areas. The program would then create a category
of “Priority Military Tuition Assistance” for those fields. For the Priority Military Tuition Assistance areas, the program would (1) increase the tuition amount per credit hour; (2) encourage, where possible, cohorts of students to take the same program together; (3) provide, as needed and feasible, high-bandwidth Internet connections that enable high-quality interaction for distance courses; (4) encourage, where possible, release time for students to take courses synchronously or at a minimum to keep pace with their classmates weekly; (5) allow military tuition assistance funds to be used at AFIT and NPS, and give AFIT and NPS incentive to compete for those resources and students; and (6) assess the achievements of the students during their study, and their contributions to DoD over their careers.
These changes to military tuition assistance would more closely align the military with the best practice of leading corporations. United Technologies (UT), for instance, has for more than a decade paid for any accredited degree program taken by its employees. 25 UT supervisors counsel employees on which degrees will enhance their career paths. Employees receive a tax break if the degree matches their job assignment, although they are allowed to study other areas if they prefer. UT allows the employees release time to attend classes. For example, an employee taking a 3-credit-hour course is automatically allowed 3 hours release time per week. UT reports that the employees taking advantage of this program have a 15 percent higher retention rate than employees across the company as a whole.
Finding 4-6. Military tuition assistance is a highly valuable military benefit. DoD spends some $560 million per year to support students under military tuition assistance, including nearly 5,800 master’s degree students. Although data are not available on what percentage of these students are active-duty officers seeking STEM+M degrees, it seems likely that this percentage is small. Encouraging more of these officer students to seek STEM degrees could help significantly to reduce DoD’s need for more STEM+M officers.
Recommendation 4-6. The Department of Defense (DoD) should create a new category of Priority Military Tuition Assistance for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and management graduate education and do the following:
• Significantly increase the maximum tuition payment per credit hour.
• Encourage, where possible, cohorts of students to take the same program together.
25 Michael Winter, Chief Engineer for Technology, Pratt & Whitney, United Technologies Corporation, “United Technologies’ Approach to Graduate Education Needs,” presentation to the committee on December 5, 2013.
• Provide, as feasible, high-bandwidth connections to enable high-quality interaction for those courses.
• Encourage, where possible, release time for students to take courses synchronously or at a minimum to keep pace with their classmates weekly.
• Allow military tuition assistance funds to be used at the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), to allow access to those courses and to give AFIT and NPS an incentive to compete for those resources and students.
This present large gap between the education of those using military tuition assistance and of those selected for full-time sponsored study could be reduced significantly by these actions.
As described in previous chapters, civilian graduate education programs appear to receive less funds and management attention than programs for the military, at least at the strategic level. This section outlines two existing funding programs designed for civilian education—the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) program and the “Section 852” funds—and discusses the possibility of achieving cost savings and therefore expanding the candidate pool through tuition negotiation.
The SMART program is particularly effective for attracting and developing civilian STEM talent within DoD. SMART enables students pursuing graduate or undergraduate degrees in STEM disciplines to receive a full scholarship (tuition, living expenses, book allowances, summer internships, health insurance, and other benefits) and be gainfully employed after degree completion. Upon selection, awardees are assigned to a DoD organization where they serve as a paid summer intern and later complete a 1-year period of post-graduation employment as a DOD civilian. The retention rate following completion of the service agreement is a very respectable 82 percent.26
26 Laura Stubbs (Senior Executive Service), Director, S&T Initiatives and STEM Development Office, OASD(R&E)/Research Directorate, “SMART 101,” presentation to the committee on November 8, 2013.
TABLE 4-3 Courses Taken by Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) and Non-AFIT Students as Part of the Dayton Area Graduate Studies Institute (AY2008-AY2013)
|AFIT student courses taken at other institutions||61||48||23||13||3||7||155|
|AFIT courses taken by students from other institutions||17||27||25||7||2||0||78|
NOTE: The numbers reflect the total number of courses taken. In other words, if one AFIT student took three different courses in 2012, that would account for the “3” in the first row in table. By that same token, if there were two non-AFIT students who took one AFIT course in 2012, that would be reflected by the “2” in the second row of table. AY, academic year.
SOURCE: Data from the Air Force Institute of Technology.
Over the past 9 years, SMART has supported 1,456 students in aeronautical and astronautical engineering; biosciences; chemical engineering; chemistry; civil engineering; cognitive, neural, and behavioral sciences; computer and computational sciences; electrical engineering; geosciences; industrial and systems engineering; information sciences; materials science and engineering; mathematics; mechanical engineering; naval architecture; ocean engineering; nuclear engineering; oceanography; operations research; and physics. Of these, 348 were master’s degree students, and 462 were Ph.D. students. Students attend a range of quality graduate schools.27Table 4-3 provides the number of graduate degrees conferred under the SMART program.
The fact that graduation rates for SMART graduate students average about 94 percent, far higher than national averages, testifies to the quality and determination of these students. These numbers appear to be limited by budgets, not demand. Both prospective and current DoD employees are eligible for SMART, although only about 12 percent are the latter. Not surprisingly, 90 percent of current DoD employees enrolling in SMART are seeking graduate degrees. Thus, SMART also serves as an effective means for retaining and enhancing the contributions of many of the best DoD scientists and engineers. The 2012 National Research Council report recommended:
DoD should continue as well as expand broadly available scholarship programs (such as SMART) that are aimed at improving the quality of its current and potential employees
and are tied to a commitment to service. We believe this action would be valued by the employee and would demonstrate the priority DoD places on the employee.28
Recently, though, some DoD laboratories have been slow to place SMART graduates to whom they have made prior commitments. Such behavior wastes money, does not show that employees are valued, and calls into question DoD’s ability to honor commitments. The SMART program is small in size but provides a stream of well-qualified scientists and engineers with up-to-date knowledge and skills. Continuity of purpose is essential for its success.
Finding 4-7. SMART is achieving the purpose outlined for it in USC Title 10 Section 2192a. It offers full scholarships and post-degree employment in DoD laboratories to well-qualified, competitively selected students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. SMART graduation and retention rates are high compared to national averages.
Recommendation 4-7. The Department of Defense (DoD) should continue and expand support for the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) program and should provide a blanket exemption to current and future hiring freezes, as well as placement priority, to ensure SMART graduates are placed promptly and effectively employed. Furthermore, DoD should ensure the candidate selection process continues to be conducted on a competitive basis.
Several factors limit DoD’s ability to provide graduate education opportunities for its civilian STEM workforce. Not surprisingly in today’s budget-constrained environment, one of the limiting factors is funding, both in terms of amount and predictability. This issue has been pointed out in previous studies29 and has been addressed by DoD for its acquisition workforce through the use of Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Funds (DAWDF), also called “Section 852” funds.30
DAWDF are used to ensure DoD’s acquisition civilian workforce has the capacity, in both personnel and skills, needed to properly perform its mission, provide
28 National Research Council (NRC), Assuring the U.S. Department of Defense a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2012. This committee concurs with all related findings and recommendations (especially Recommendation 5 [p. 11], Finding 4.1 [p. 96], Recommendation 5.2 [p. 111], and Finding 6.4 [p. 117]). Relevant findings and recommendations from that study are reprinted in Appendix D of this report.
30 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 20088, H.R. 4986, Section 852. DAWDF funding is multi-year money.
TABLE 4-4 Actual and Budgeted (Statutory) Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF) Profiles (millions of dollars)
|Current Statutory Levels||500||800||700||600||500||400|
NOTE: The Secretary of Defense may reduce an amount specified for a fiscal year (FY) if the secretary determines that the amount is greater than is reasonably needed for purposes of the fund for such fiscal year. The secretary may not reduce the amount for a fiscal year to an amount that is less than 80% of the amount otherwise specified (U.S. Code 1705). In FY2013 the amount credited to the fund was reduced to $400 million (80%) as allowed in the statute.
appropriate oversight of contractor performance, and ensure that the DoD receives the best value for expenditure of public resources (U.S. Code 1705). DAWDF are for the recruitment, training, education, and retention of DoD acquisition personnel. These funds can also be used for tuition assistance, long-term and full-time study, and back-filling positions behind students attending school and transitioning back after graduation. DAWDF is a critical enabler for the Defense Acquisition Workforce improvement strategy. The fund is managed by a senior official of DoD designated by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Table 4-4 provides the current statutory DAWDF levels.
DAWDF can only be used on acquisition-coded positions across DoD. Qualified STEM personnel occupy some of these positions, but not all DoD civilian STEM personnel are acquisition-coded.31 DoD and the Services have issued specific written policies regarding the management and usage of DAWDF. Reduced funding between FY2014 and FY2018 reflects the fact that original hiring initiatives are wrapping up and that education funds are under attack as DoD budgets are decreasing.32
Finding 4-8. DoD does a much better job of supporting the graduate education needs of its uniformed members than it does the graduate education needs of its civilian STEM workforce. This is true in terms of process, structure, opportunities, and funding. AFIT, NPS and many civilian institutions have the capacity to better support civilians. DoD needs to find a sufficient and predictable funding source for all STEM professionals.
31 Discussions with a Service representative indicated that more than half of DoD’s S&E community are on acquisition-coded positions and already have access to these funds.
32 Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Funds (DAWDF) FY 2012 Annual Report to Congress, 10 U.S.C. 1705(f), April 2013.
Recommendation 4-8. The Department of Defense (DoD) should aggressively use Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Funds (DAWDF) for the existing covered science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce members for graduate-level education through current long-term, full-time education provisions. Further, DoD should obtain authorization from Congress either to expand existing DAWDF to include all STEM workforce professionals or to obtain “DAWDF-like” funding, backfilling positions behind students attending school and supporting their transitioning back to their former jobs after graduation.
Because universities typically offer significant financial aid packages to their STEM Ph.D. students, the actual tuition rates these students pay are often substantially less than the published rates. It is estimated that DoD funds Ph.D. graduate education for hundreds of personnel at civilian universities each year at a cost of many tens of millions of dollars, not including salary and living costs.33 Programs include the Air Force Civilian Institutions Program, managed by AFIT; students sponsored by military installations; and the graduate portion of SMART, described earlier in this chapter; as well as many local organizational programs (e.g., DoD laboratories). Additionally, it supports about 185 Ph.D. students not employed by DoD through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship (NDSEG) program at an annual cost of almost $35 million.
In general, DoD pays published tuition rates. The U.S. Military Academy is a notable exception. It has negotiated tuition reductions averaging 50 percent with a number of leading universities. If DoD as a whole followed a similar practice, it might achieve substantial savings while not compromising the quality of graduate education. These savings could be used to educate additional DoD personnel at top-quality universities or to enhance the STEM capabilities of its members in other ways. An alternative approach is taken by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which provides a cost-of-education allowance of $12,000 to universities in lieu of tuition as part of its Graduate Research Fellowship Program.34 Use of a flat rate eliminates the need for negotiation with numerous universities and avoids any perception of favoritism toward particular universities. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) employs a similar approach.35
33 The committe was unable to obtain exact numbers.
34 Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GREP) Program Solicitation, NSF 13-584, http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2013/nsf13584/nsf13584.htm, accessed March 19, 2014.
35 Ruth L. Kirschstein, National Research Service Award (NRSA) Stipends, Tuition/Fees and Other Budgetary Levels Effective for Fiscal Year 2012, NOT-OD-12-033, http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-12-033.html, accessed March 19, 2014.
Finding 4-9. Through the Civilian Institutions Program, NDSEG, SMART, and other graduate education programs, DoD provides both adequate stipends and full tuition for the graduate students it supports. In contrast, NSF and NIH provide adequate stipends at uniformly reduced tuition rates, which universities usually accept, for the Ph.D. students they support. West Point, NSF, and NIH have negotiated reduced tuition rates for Ph.D. students sent to civilian institutions. Adopting these practices across DoD would help the department stretch limited graduate education funds to support more graduate students.
Recommendation 4-9. The Department of Defense should provide a flat rate cost-of-education allowance to universities in lieu of tuition for Ph.D. students it supports, similar to allowances provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.36
The Professional Science and Engineering Master’s degree, hereafter called the Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree for consistency with standard terminology,37 was developed in response to the need for broader technical talent for many science and engineering positions. It is designed to provide solid training in and understanding of science and the ability to communicate about science for professionals in industry, government, and advocacy organizations, providing the equivalent of an M.B.A. in science. Until about 20 years ago, this kind of career training was not available. Schools of engineering had, however, developed programs in engineering management, most often in collaboration with schools of business administration. What has been developed is the PSM, essentially management-trained professionals in science and engineering. The PSM is not the traditional master’s degree in chemistry, physics, or biology, but rather programs that educate people to enter careers in management of science and technology programs, with the master’s degree viewed as the terminal degree for the professional. Some PSM graduates do go on to the Ph.D., but the program is aimed at developing a scientist (and more recently, an engineer) for nonacademic settings, indeed, for the “real world.”
The PSM was designed to address employer’s needs for staff trained in the natural sciences at the master’s degree level. The landscape of master’s education was reviewed in a report published by the NRC in 2008. An important finding stated that:
36 NSF, for instance, currently pays $12,000 per year.
These programs are attractive to students who want to work in nonacademic sectors, interdisciplinary careers, team-oriented environments, managerial or other professional level positions, or emerging areas of science and scientific discovery. They appeal to students who are seeking career advancement, are looking to gain a competitive edge, or are reentering the workforce in order to refine professional and technical skills.38
The report also showed that students and employers had increasingly found a master’s education a valuable pursuit, with education at the master’s level growing faster than other sectors of postsecondary education in the United States. In 1970-1971, higher education institutions had awarded 230,509 master’s degrees, and by 2004-2005, a total of 574,618 master’s degrees were awarded, an increase of approximately 150 per cent.39 According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 730,635 master’s degrees awarded for 2010-2011 and 754,229 master’s degrees awarded for 2011-2012, the last year for available data.40 In fact, the rate of growth of master’s degrees has been significantly higher than for professional degrees in law, medicine, and dentistry.41 Career-oriented fields now dominate master’s degree programs, with the degree no longer considered an intermediate degree that follows the baccalaureate and preceeds the doctorate. Of course, this is also reflected in the emphases of both AFIT and NPS graduate programs.
The natural sciences have been more traditional with respect to the master’s degree. However, the marketplace now demands workers with skills that include the following:
• Communication in writing,
• Making presentations,
• Contributing as members of interdisciplinary teams,
• Managing projects effectively,
• Understanding and working toward organizational goals,
• Understanding legal, regulatory, and international dimensions of science- and engineering-based work,
• Understanding the commercialization process and how to translate knowledge into product or process innovation, and
• Understanding and applying ethical considerations.42
38 NRC, Science Professionals: Master’s Education for a Competitive World, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2008.
41 NRC, Science Professionals, 2008.
These new demands have changed the master’s degree into a highly professional education with many opportunities. As noted in the 2008 NRC report, evolving science and technology have both enabled and created fields and opportunities within industry.43 For example, discoveries in physics led to advances in data storage; the creation of new fields of business intelligence and the concomitant growth in computing power; and the fields of bioinformatics, computational finance, and computational linguistics.44 Clearly, new talent with advanced science education and practical workplace skills has been created through PSM programs. PSM programs now number more than 300 at well more than 120 institutions. As noted in the 2012 NRC report, these programs are generally cross-disciplinary, and new programs of this type:
Could be configured to meet the broad skills specified as needed by DOD management. … So far, most employers involved in PSM programs have been corporate; DOD has not been involved to any significant degree. However, if DOD agencies could describe PSM programs that would meet their projected needs, possibly in concert with large procurement programs, PSM degrees would likely be configured to meet DOD’s needs by a number of universities that are actively expanding their PSM offerings.45
In line with this recommendation, DoD agencies could help university faculty plan such degrees, offer PSM students internships, and provide financial support to PSM students in return for appropriate DoD service, for instance, through the SMART program described later in this chapter.
Finding 4-10. PSM degree programs have been expanding around the country and now number more than 300 at some 120 institutions. These programs have created a distinctive approach to articulating curricular design, with scientific and engineering workforce needs specified by employers. Often these programs are cross-disciplinary, and new programs of this type could be configured to meet the broad skill set specified as needed by DoD management.
Recommendation 4-10. The Department of Defense should use Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree programs at civilian universities to educate some of its officers and civilians in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines, augmented with appropriate management courses. PSM degrees are particularly appropriate for managers who will oversee acquisition programs with substantial technical content.
45 NRC, Assuring the U.S. Department of Defense a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce, 2012.
Education is a complex process. Students differ in their starting skills, academic interest, geographic location, time commitments, preferred learning style, and ability to pay. It is no surprise that there are many different ways to address graduate education needs. The United States has more than 6,700 post-secondary schools,46 and a big state school such as Ohio State University offers more than 175 different undergraduate majors, many of which are in STEM+M fields.47 The Air Force, the Navy, and the rest of DoD have significant educational needs of their own, both because of the breadth of their mission and because of the variety within their own personnel across those same dimensions. While AFIT and NPS, as currently configured, can meet many of the most mission-critical needs for graduate education, there is a wealth of opportunities to expand the current offerings. This chapter outlined some of those possibilities: expanding offerings at NPS and AFIT with new degrees, new partnerships, and new distance learning modes; and expanding options for DoD personnel with civilian institutions, including various funding mechanisms. Chapter 5 aggregates the committee’s key findings and recommendations from all chapters.