Departmental factors affecting time to degree and completion rates of doctoral students at one land-grant research institution
MetadataShow full item record
Time to doctoral degree has increased consistently in American universities since 1967, in some fields by as much as two years. At the same time, rates of completion have decreased. It is predicted that this pattern will persist, resulting in a diminished supply of highly trained workers in the future.
The present research was designed to analyze time to doctoral degree and completion rates by academic department, and to identify departmental factors that positively or negatively affect these outcomes at one land-grant, research institution. This topic is significant to all aspects of higher education: students, departments, and universities. For students, increased time and lower completion rates diminish their competitiveness in the job market, morale tends to decline, and the tendency to not finish increases over time. For the department and the university, attractiveness to other students is decreased, and the nwnber of new students who can be accepted may be reduced. A reduction in the pool of applicants due to the increased time to degree and lower completion rates may create both a supply and demand problem, and an inability for higher education to meet the demand.
Given the high costs associated with graduate education, the current national climate of diminishing resources for higher education, and increased competition for these resources between undergraduate and graduate programs, it is critical to further examine the outcomes of graduate study.
This research employed quantitative and qualitative methods. It was conducted in two phases. The first phase focused on calculations of time to degree and completion rates by academic department for students who began a program leading to the doctor of philosophy degree between the fall, 1986 and spring, 1990 semesters. Data were analyzed through the end of the fall, 1995 semester.
The second phase of the study involved interviews with graduate students and faculty from selected departments to identify departmental factors affecting time to degree and completion rates, and to explore whether faculty opinions differ from those of students, and whether faculty and students opinions differ among departments.
Results of this study allowed the researcher to identify variables that explain achievements and failures within the graduate education process, and provide evidence for designing and re-designing graduate programs and policies. Results may contribute to a better understanding of the factors affecting graduate education outcomes at this particular institution, and may guide university administrators in implementing strategies to improve graduate student success.
- Doctoral Dissertations