Two facts --- students are taking longer to get their PhDs in economics, and students are dropping out of PhD programs before finishing. Faced with these facts, Greg Mankiw reflects on the structure of graduate education and the role that MA programs can in fact play in improving graduate education in economics.
Speaking of graduate programs, Tyler Cowen recently pointed to a new online method and ranking of graduate programs. Some of the commentators on Marginal Revolution continue to fail to understand that GMU's economics department, while the home of multiple blogs, also can boast of being the home for faculty that have won 2 Nobel Prizes, Distinguished Fellow of the AEA awards, and even one of the early winners of the John Bates Clark Award. James Buchanan, Vernon Smith, Gordon Tullock, and Kenneth Boulding have all walked the department halls and taught various students through the history of the PhD program at GMU. Current faculty have published in the AER, JPE, APSR, AJPS, PNAS, let alone leading field journals such as J Pub and J of Law & Econ. JEL rankings over the years have placed GMU in the 40s in terms of PhD program rankings, and others have ranked the program even higher depending on methodology pursued. If the commentators on Marginal Revolution would follow Mankiw's advice and rely on "hard data" rather than their impressionistic interpretation, then they might find something surprising about GMUs program -- both in terms of the content of the educational options that students can pursue, and the substantive work that faculty and students are engaged in at GMU.
Back to Mankiw's reflections --- at GMU we have a strong MA program, and within that a track that the Mercatus Center supports that has done an excellent job of placing students in highly leveraged positions in public sector, public policy think-tanks, and the private sector, and our full-time population of PhD students on funding graduates students in 4 to 5 years, and has a high percentage of graduation. In many ways, we are already doing what Mankiw recommends in terms of structural changes to graduate programs in economics to maximize their educational value to their customers. I also would like to hear from former graduates of our program if their experience after their second year conformed with what Mankiw suggests it should --- that is an experience which treats graduate students as the most junior faculty, rather than the most senior students.