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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

UF Ph.D. economics program denied funding, forced to downsize

Thinking of getting a Ph.D. in economics? Not so fast.

UF’s Ph.D. program in economics is not accepting applicants for the upcoming school year.

Roger Blair, the department of economics chairman, said funds to accommodate new students will not be provided, but Ph.D. students currently enrolled in the program are not being cut off.

“The program hasn’t been canceled, but in a sort of de facto way it has — because without funding, you can’t have a Ph.D. program,” Blair said. “When it came time to allocate funds for supporting the Ph.D. students, we were told that no funds would be allocated.”

UF Warrington College of Business Administration Dean John Kraft wrote in an email that the department was offered the opportunity to move to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences but opted to remain within the business college and become smaller.

“In the future, they will be able to offer a business economics major and graduate courses as needed,” he said in the email. “This strategy is consistent with the college’s strategy of downsizing to better service the development needs of students, faculty and staff.”

There are 27 students in the Ph.D. program, according to the department’s website. Having senior faculty members teach such small classes can get expensive, Blair said, but losing the program will impact the entire business college.

He said graduate students provide tutoring for undergraduate business students, and without it, the quality of the undergraduate courses could suffer.

Ph.D. students also teach economics electives. This school year, there will be nine sections entirely staffed by them.

“If I didn’t have those Ph.D. students, those courses couldn’t be offered because everybody is already assigned,” Blair said.

Economics professor Larry Kenny said the department’s faculty is dwindling.

“When I was chairman for six years back in the 90s, at that time we were averaging 31 or 32 faculty,” he said. “We’re at 11, and we’re slated to go to half that.”

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Kenny said the absence of a Ph.D. program might reduce the faculty even further.

“There are a large number of faculty who basically enjoy working with Ph.D. students and would not be interested in working with just undergraduates,” Kenny said.

Blair said that of the 62 members of the Association of American Universities, the only ones without Ph.D. programs in economics are Case Western Reserve University, Emory University and now UF.

“Even FSU has a Ph.D. program in economics,” he said. “We’d like to think UF is the flagship university. We should be in there.”

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