Are Your MA Graduates Being Properly Counted?

You may not have given it much thought, but even if your program is focused on writing and rhetoric, your students are most likely being counted in Higher Ed statistical categories as students of literature.

Thanks to a great deal of hard work over several years by Louise Phelps (Syracuse University) and her taskforce, the Department of Education has finally officially recognized "Rhetoric and Composition/Writing Studies" as a classification code in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). What this means, in short, is that if you arrange with your registrar to change the Classification of Instructional Programs code or CIP code, your graduates will be identified in rhetoric and composition or writing studies in government statistics.

Phelps has pointed out how crucial these data are in underscoring the legitimacy of the field and its graduate programs with administrators and funding agencies. When administrators at your institution survey graduation data, or when you need such data for program review, your graduates will not be lost among those with literature or creative writing degrees. And Rhet/Comp scholars attempting to establish new programs will now be able to point to these new, specific CIP codes to verify for colleagues, deans, and curriculum committees that rhetoric and composition/writing studies is more than a local invention.

How to Make Your Students Count
Contact the head of your institution’s student records office or registrar. Ask him or her to put you in touch with your institution’s IPEDS "keyholder" (the DOE’s official on-campus designate), or more informally, the person who reports graduation data to the government. Explain that you’re aware that as of July 1, 2009, the CIP codes have been revised, and that you want to make sure your students are accurately counted. Provide him or her with a link to the code that most accurately represents your program:

23.13) Rhetoric and Composition/Writing Studies.

It is in the institution’s best interest to have accurate data. Those who have followed this route so far have received thanks for keeping the reporting data current. Consider sharing your success stories with the Consortium listserv.