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I am a graduate student of Industrial Engineering at a US university. The IE grad department has about 11 graduate level courses listed in their catalog. However, insofar they have offered only 2 of those courses. One in fall, and one for the upcoming spring semester.

I spoke with students who are graduating this year learned that they have been in the same situation. The department has been offering the same two courses repeatedly for the past couple of years. Courses with which my interests align aren't being offered at all. With no choice, I am having to take up undergrad courses (one level lower) to keep up with credit requirements. I wanted to know whom I could approach in such situations. Who should I contact?

My options are limited since I am an international student. Moreover, my tuition fees are higher, and for that cost, I feel my educational needs aren't being met justly.

How can I approach this problem? What are the possible solutions?

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    So, what did your advisor say when you asked? (You did ask them, right?) And what did your department chair say when your advisor asked them? (Your advisor did take this question to the department head, right?) – JeffE Dec 16 '13 at 2:51
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In most science-technology-mathematics-engineering departments in the U.S., there are many more courses in the catalog than are offered in any year. There are typically pressures (from above, or from faculty) to offer fewer, rather than more, courses, so things may default to reduced graduate course offerings. Nevertheless, if many grad students explicitly request (to the department) a given course, this greatly increases the chances it'll be offered. Certainly if you don't ask, things will probably continue to be the same.

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    It might be worth talking to other students who are in the same situation. Sometimes these courses stopped getting offered because of perpetually low enrollment. If one student expresses interest in a certain course, that may be met with a shrug. If six students express interest in the same course, that has a higher chance of initiating a scramble to see if someone (perhaps an adjunct, even) might take it on. – J.R. Dec 15 '13 at 21:52
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A couple of other possibilities come to mind, particularly with my experience at a couple of smaller universities that are marginally terminal-degree-granting, but only by the narrowest of number-of-degrees-awarded margins:

  1. The courses may be listed in the catalog only because of past offerings, largely driven by the highly specialized expertise of a faculty member no longer at the university (to wit, I would have been less impressed had a university tried to force a non-expert in African history to teach a highly specific course in one particular focus of African history, and more impressed that they were tacitly admitting their (hopefully temporary) shortcomings), but cannot reasonably be offered at the present time while that niche in the department is re-filled.

  2. That shortcoming may in fact be so acute as to be threatening your department's graduate-degree-granting status--that they are keenly aware that they need more graduate courses in your discipline, may even be aware that there is a widespread desire by students to take them--but the department may in fact be in danger of withdrawing this particular graduate degree from the list of available options. Given the long pattern of unavailability you have described, it could hardly be considered inappropriate to make inquiries with the chairman about the long-term future of the department and/or this particular degree, especially given the time you have already invested with no (apparent) warnings of what thin ice your career plans may be treading on.

Of course, it's also true that we're overlooking one incidental but critical issue regarding the graduate curriculum: no student has an automatic right to a full plate of courses "that align with their interests." It's loverly when it happens, but we've all had to take courses that didn't especially thrill us while waiting for the chance to take those that did.

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