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Statprof
02-13-2008, 04:06 PM
Hello,

I am a professor in a statistics department at a university with a
top 15 economics department. The purpose of this thread is to
get feedback from the readers of this message board regarding
a possible new Master's program we have been considering in our
department. Note: this program has not been approved by
our department, let alone the university. It is at the discussion
stage only and may end up going nowhere.

We are considering a one-year Master's degree that would be geared
toward people like you who want further preparation (beyond the
bachelor's degree) to pursue a PhD in areas such as
economics, finance and marketing. The course work for the
degree would involve:

1. A year of mathematical statistics at either the graduate
or undergraduate level.

2. A year of microeconomics at the graduate level.

3. A third year-long sequence in econometrics (grad level) or applied
statistics (grad level) or real analysis (undergrad or grad) or
stochastic processes (grad level) or measure theoretic probability
(grad level- obviously!).

We want to get some feeling for the level of interest in such a
program. Note that it is extremely unlikely that there would be
a tuition waver or stipend for students in this program.

While this program would be a source of revenue, we feel that such
a program would attract a higher caliber of students to our PhD
program. We hope that some students in the Master's program may
actually enjoy statistics [clap] and continue with our PhD
program. Admitted students to the PhD program in statistics
uniformly receive a fellowship in the first year and three
more years of TA or RA support (conditional on "adequate"
progress). This is pretty standard in many statistics departments.

Please do not send me any emails. All comments pro and con,
as well as questions should be posted here.

Thanks!

YoungEconomist
02-13-2008, 04:26 PM
I think this is a great idea. I would definitely consider such a program in order to further prepare for a PhD in Econ.

GymShorts
02-13-2008, 04:29 PM
This sounds like a great program. I would apply for fall 2009 if such a program existed.

asquare
02-13-2008, 04:32 PM
I'm probably not your target audience for this thread: I'm currently a third year economics PhD student at the University of Michigan. However, I have some comments on your idea.

I don't know how valuable this option would really be for students who want to apply for PhDs in economics, at least in the short run. It would take time for the program to develop credibility and a placement record. Moreover, there are already MA programs that do have good track records at placing students in good PhD programs (mostly Canadian or British programs for economics).

One year programs may not be ideal for students who want to apply for PhDs, because applications are frequently due before grades are available and before students have had time to develop the type of relationships with professors that lead to strong LORs. If you could structure your program on a trimester system or otherwise ensure that at least one semester's/trimester's worth of grades would be ready in time for applications, that would probably be valuable to the students you are trying to attract.

Also, while the program would be a good "feeder" for your department, it's less obvious that it will be as valuable for potential economics students. Will you do anything to foster a connection between the program and the econ department at your school? Is the econ department receptive and willing to consider successful students in the MA program for the econ PhD? If I were considering attending the program, I would ask these questions.

Finally, I worry about the trend towards increasing the prerequesites for pursuing PhDs in economics. Requiring a MA before a 5 year, taught PhD is a substantial burden and cost for students. But if such programs become common, they may create a "ratchet effect" where departments come to expect or at least heavily reward this sort of preparation. And while I am all in favor of students coming in to PhD programs with adequate mathematical and statistical training, I would rather see programs do a better job of informing undergraduates of the necessary preparation, and of challenging bright students to get that training as undergrads. I am not in favor of changes that effectively prolong graduate training in economics from 5 years to 6 or 7 years.

I do recognize that strong "feeder" programs can be valuable for students who don't have the necessary preparation, and that the type of courses you describe may well lead to better prepared, more capable researchers conducting higher quality research. However, I'm not sure I see this as a perfect fit, at least not for students who want to go on to study economics rather than statistics. I'd be concerned about the application cycle, given the one-year program you propose, and the lack of connection to the economics program.

AstralTraveller
02-13-2008, 04:42 PM
Dear Statprof.

Now that you are at it. Haven't you thought about implementing a doctoral program like the Econometrics PhD at Chicago GSB?

It is essentially a PhD in Statistics with an excellent second specialization in Economics. That would be a program I would be glad to pursue.

In fact, I don't know of any other US universities offering a program similar to Chicago's within the top-50. Most programs are either purely Statistics PhDs (and among them I'm counting programs like Duke's ISDS, Wharton's Stats and Stern's Stats as well as conventional Statistics Departments), or Economics PhDs with Econometrics emphasis (like UC San Diego, or any top-10 department with a strong Econometrics emphasis).

eqtisadi
02-13-2008, 04:45 PM
Apart from what asquare said, I think that you should ask people on admissions committees. Students will just try to outsignal the other future-applicants. They will do it only if the others are doing it.

Luckykid
02-13-2008, 04:57 PM
With my low undergrad GPA I may have considered your program if I wanted to pursue a top school. Because I am comfortable with the 30-70 range I would not apply.

Not sure how much help that is but the program may be a good fit for people who realized they wanted to go for a Ph.D. late in their undergrad career.

Roy

08Applicant
02-13-2008, 05:13 PM
That is something I would try to accomplish if I was already an undergrad at that University. Didn't Antichron get his BS in math and MA in economics from UCLA simultaneously? A lot of people will take Real Analysis and a few grad level economics courses anyway. It's always cool if you can squeeze out an extra diploma for your trouble.

I would find it more difficult to justify this as a stand alone degree for myself. I am not sure I would want the time and expense of moving to a different city and paying thousands in tuition.

bertthepuppy
02-13-2008, 05:13 PM
Finally, I worry about the trend towards increasing the prerequesites for pursuing PhDs in economics. Requiring a MA before a 5 year, taught PhD is a substantial burden and cost for students. But if such programs become common, they may create a "ratchet effect" where departments come to expect or at least heavily reward this sort of preparation.

This was my initial concern too. I would rather take a few math classes to prepare then spend money taking a whole year's worth of courses. Also, I know a lot of people in this forum have taken Grad level Micro and/or Macro and Econometrics, but I think I would prefer to wait to do that until I get my PhD. While this proves that you're prepared to start the PhD, from what I hear that first year is miserable, and I do not want to go through it twice.

Smileysquared
02-13-2008, 05:17 PM
A year with statistics...how different will this be for students like me who have a double major in Mathematics and Economics for their undergraduate degree?

tangsiuje
02-13-2008, 05:40 PM
Actually, I've never heard about a master's program for which you can take so much of the credit-bearing classes at the undergraduate level. My impression was that coursework for master's programmes were supposed to be at the graduate level, and that you could possibly squeeze some undergraduate classes into your schedule during your spare time, whilst these would of course not count for credit towards the master's degree.

They have some programs here in England in which they teach undergraduate material to graduated students (mainly for those who want to switch fields), but these ones cannot be called "master's degree", but are just referred to as "diploma". Are there no regulations regarding these matters in the US?

Statprof
02-13-2008, 05:45 PM
Thanks for your insightful comments, asquare. My comments are
below following the **.


I'm probably not your target audience for this thread: I'm currently a third year economics PhD student at the University of Michigan. However, I have some comments on your idea.

I don't know how valuable this option would really be for students who want to apply for PhDs in economics, at least in the short run. It would take time for the program to develop credibility and a placement record. Moreover, there are already MA programs that do have good track records at placing students in good PhD programs (mostly Canadian or British programs for economics).

** If this program ever did get off the ground, I am sure its continued
** existence would be evaluated using various criteria- one being
** placement. It would be interesting after n years to examine
** whether students who complete such a program are more likely to
** complete a PhD program. But you gotta start somewhere, otherwise why
** try anything new? We are in the US and clearly we would not
** attract students that wish to study in Canada, UK, Europe, etc.

One year programs may not be ideal for students who want to apply for PhDs, because applications are frequently due before grades are available and before students have had time to develop the type of relationships with professors that lead to strong LORs. If you could structure your program on a trimester system or otherwise ensure that at least one semester's/trimester's worth of grades would be ready in time for applications, that would probably be valuable to the students you are trying to attract.

** I would prefer not to get into institutional details at this point. But
** I can assure you that fall grades would be available by the end
** of December. Clearly there is a trade off with a two-year program
** that would entail double the tuition and would add
** another year before matriculation (see your comment below).

Also, while the program would be a good "feeder" for your department, it's less obvious that it will be as valuable for potential economics students. Will you do anything to foster a connection between the program and the econ department at your school? Is the econ department receptive and willing to consider successful students in the MA program for the econ PhD? If I were considering attending the program, I would ask these questions.

** I can barely speak for myself, let alone other people. You raise
** an excellent point about some sort of coordination. This would need
** to be explored. I would expect that students that do very well
** in the graduate economics courses would have a leg up- demonstrate
** mastery of material, have access to strong letter writers, etc. but that
** is just me speaking. They would also have a clearer idea of what
** they are getting themselves into and possibly realize it is not for them.

Finally, I worry about the trend towards increasing the prerequesites for pursuing PhDs in economics. Requiring a MA before a 5 year, taught PhD is a substantial burden and cost for students. But if such programs become common, they may create a "ratchet effect" where departments come to expect or at least heavily reward this sort of preparation. And while I am all in favor of students coming in to PhD programs with adequate mathematical and statistical training, I would rather see programs do a better job of informing undergraduates of the necessary preparation, and of challenging bright students to get that training as undergrads. I am not in favor of changes that effectively prolong graduate training in economics from 5 years to 6 or 7 years.

** This is a good point. I see many undergrads programmed by
** their high school experiences grind through physics, biology,
** chemistry, etc. It is only in their junior year that they realize
** there is more out there. This proposed program is not for everyone
** and I am trying to understand if there is a niche for this program.
** I agree that this program is clearly not for the student that studied
** "baby" Rudin, Casella & Berger, Mas-Collel, etc. We want to
** understand who would be interested and who would profit.

I do recognize that strong "feeder" programs can be valuable for students who don't have the necessary preparation, and that the type of courses you describe may well lead to better prepared, more capable researchers conducting higher quality research.

** Nice characterization of a successful program

However, I'm not sure I see this as a perfect fit, at least not for students who want to go on to study economics rather than statistics. I'd be concerned about the application cycle, given the one-year program you propose, and the lack of connection to the economics program.

** I doubt anyone anywhere would be willing to make promises and
** if they did, I would not believe them. The value would need to be
** examined empirically after n years to see if the program is
** successful in helping students make the leap and how students do
** in the PhD program.

Statprof
02-13-2008, 06:33 PM
Thanks for your comments. We have had students that
take lots of graduate econ courses and then write an
econometrics type thesis in our department. I am not familiar
with the program you mention and will look into it.


Dear Statprof.

Now that you are at it. Haven't you thought about implementing a doctoral program like the Econometrics PhD at Chicago GSB?

It is essentially a PhD in Statistics with an excellent second specialization in Economics. That would be a program I would be glad to pursue.

In fact, I don't know of any other US universities offering a program similar to Chicago's within the top-50. Most programs are either purely Statistics PhDs (and among them I'm counting programs like Duke's ISDS, Wharton's Stats and Stern's Stats as well as conventional Statistics Departments), or Economics PhDs with Econometrics emphasis (like UC San Diego, or any top-10 department with a strong Econometrics emphasis).

Statprof
02-13-2008, 06:36 PM
It may not be and may actually be a rotten idea for you.



A year with statistics...how different will this be for students like me who have a double major in Mathematics and Economics for their undergraduate degree?

buckykatt
02-13-2008, 09:09 PM
It's nice to see someone thinking about how they can better meet the needs of future economists, Statprof. As usual, asquare has some insightful comments, to which I'll try to add.

I am not as worried as asquare about a potential "ratchet effect" of programs like this. I believe that the subset of students for whom it would be appropriate would actually progress more quickly once in an econ Ph.D. program, and thus potentially finish overall at the same time (or, equivalently, have better odds of finishing at all). I'm thinking primarily of students who are mathematically under-prepared and need more opportunity to study math/stats instead of taking core courses they'll only take again as part of their Ph.D. program. (Macro--who needs it?) However, I can also imagine someone attending your program as part of a diversification strategy, where they plan to attend a Ph.D. program that is weak in metrics but excels in another field of interest.

If a program like this were available this year, I might have applied. (In my case, though, funding is a priority, so probably not.) Instead, I applied to master's programs in math, stats, and econ that each have enough flexibility to allow me to approximate the program you're proposing.

It seems to me that the most important question is, will students in your program take the micro sequence with the econ Ph.D. students? If so, their first semester micro grade will be a good signal and would be valuable to students like me who did not attend an undergrad institutional with a grad program in micro. However, to accomplish this, wouldn't your students then need to also take the equivalent math methods course?

GymShorts
02-13-2008, 10:23 PM
Perhaps one way to fix the timing problem would be start classes during the summer. Then students could send the grades from classes during the summer, and classes during the fall. It would also allow students to take an elective class or two if they have a particular weakness that needs fixing.

buckykatt
02-13-2008, 11:14 PM
Perhaps one way to fix the timing problem would be start classes during the summer. Then students could send the grades from classes during the summer, and classes during the fall. It would also allow students to take an elective class or two if they have a particular weakness that needs fixing.

Yes, the same idea had occurred to me. I think this would probably have to be Math Camp On Steroids.

asquare
02-13-2008, 11:16 PM
Statprof, thanks for taking the time to reply for our comments. One thing that speaks well for the future of this program, if it is eventually created, is that the people behind it are willing to engage with students to find out what they are looking for and why they would or would not enroll.

AstralTraveller
02-14-2008, 12:59 AM
Statprof, thanks for taking the time to reply for our comments. One thing that speaks well for the future of this program, if it is eventually created, is that the people behind it are willing to engage with students to find out what they are looking for and why they would or would not enroll.

I'd like to second what asquare said. Statprof, thanks for asking and replying. :)

Olm
02-14-2008, 04:09 AM
It doesn't seem like a good idea to me. MA programs in economics from Canada and Europe have especially good track records (the big 4 in Canada, Oxford, Toulouse, etc. in Europe) and many offer generous funding. Really, what is it that you're trying to accomplish with this program? As well, the UK and European Master's programs tend to be two years. Students who want to maximize their chances of getting into a good grad program would gladly put up that extra year to do it, it seems. :2cents:

Weary
02-15-2008, 08:07 AM
I believe a year long course of microeconomics as it is taught to graduate students in economics is way too theoretical and should distract students who may have a terminal degree in mind. With some options or a compulsory applied course that introduces basic theoretical concepts on the fly potential reach of the program may be considerably wider.