I am enrolled in a new hybrid Business/Mathematics graduate program at a small liberal arts college in the Pacific NW. Since last fall, I have completed 6 of the 12 courses required to obtain my MSc. These were mostly business courses. Now I am at the point where I need to take my mathematics courses in advanced statistical topics.

My intention was to complete the program in 2 years (as per discussions with my admissions counselor), but my advisor has now told me that given the low enrollment, I may be looking at 3+ years to graduate.

Does this situation seem acceptable? I would like to approach a dean regarding this to see if these courses can be offered 1-on-1 or guided-study so that I may graduate in a reasonable amount of time, but am not sure what is the norm in this situation.

To note:

  • There are roughly 10 students in the program. There is no "cohort", and most of the students take only one course per semester, as that is what their employer will cover. Because of this, it is unlikely that these students will drive significant enrollment to these advanced courses in the near future.
  • This is an accredited college. The program is unaccredited (it is not a typically offered program at many colleges). However, all of the other graduate programs offered at the college are accredited.
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    That is one of the disadvantages of going to a small independant institution... I don’t think they will have faculty with available free time to give you private tuition on top of the classes they will have already... Have you considered moving... – Solar Mike Jul 12 '18 at 3:50
  • @SolarMike I haven't had any considerations other than speaking with my advisor's superior. In a worst case scenario, I would transfer to a general business (MBA) program within the school before attempting to transfer credits elsewhere. – TGostell Jul 12 '18 at 4:37

Talking to a dean is probably not the place to start. Independent study should normally be arranged directly between a student and a professor, so it'd be best to start by identifying a professor you'd like to work with - typically this should be someone who's taught the course before - and asking them whether they'd be willing to supervise you in an independent version of the course.

However, independent study is typically not "compensated" the same as regular teaching. This varies between institutions, but it's quite possible that the professor would have to work with you on top of all her existing teaching, research and service responsibilities, without it increasing her pay or performance ratings. As such, don't be too surprised if no professor will agree to do it - it's not that they're being mean or uncaring, just that the incentive structure does not make it worthwhile.

If you can't find any professor willing, then you could consider approaching a dean or department chair who may be able to pressure them a little. But I still wouldn't be too hopeful. Using independent study to compensate for cancelled courses is a pretty unsustainable model for the university.

At this point, it would be wise to look into the possibility of doing your masters somewhere else, and seeing if at least some of your credits can be transferred. A program this small may be at risk of being cancelled altogether before you can finish.

  • I don't know the situation in the US, but in Germany we are having limits defining that I'm not allowed to hold a course if it has less then x students (x varying between 3 and 5), and our administraion is enforced to check this. Of course I can still do this in my free time... – OBu Jul 12 '18 at 6:02
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    I would only add to this you might also see if other students around you would also like this opportunity. Strength in numbers. – Buffy Jul 12 '18 at 11:43
  • Thank you for your feedback. It sounds like my original approach is not acceptable. – TGostell Jul 12 '18 at 12:21
  • Agree absolutely. I took a handful of Independent study because of scheduling issues with work. But it may work better in a class like that which I took (literature) than in a class that would have a lab component. I ended up writing a few small papers (8-10 pages) to demonstrate the research I had done, meeting to discuss the books / poetry I had read a few times over the semester, and then writing an article length (20-25 pg) final paper. Learned an incredible amount from it, but the general rule in our department was you only did ind. study if you had no other option to take the course. – user0721090601 Jul 12 '18 at 13:12

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