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Ph. D.

Completion and Attrition:


Analysis of Baseline Data
Robert Sowell
NSF Workshop
A FRESH LOOK AT Ph.D. EDUCATION

March 31, 2008

CGS Ph.D. Completion Project


Quantitative Data Submitted by Institutions
12 Years (1992-93 through 2003-04)
Program completion Broad field demographic
and attrition
completion

30 Institutions
5 Broad Fields
54 Disciplines
330 Programs
~49,000 Students

Gender (G)
Citizenship/Ethnicity (CE)
24 Institutions (G)
23 Institutions (CE)
~40,000 Students (G)
~ 40,000 Students (CE)

Ten-Year Completion and Attrition Analysis:


For Students Entering Ph.D. Programs
1992-93 through 1994-95 (A Cohorts)
Completion
Program Data: Overall, broad field, discipline
Gender Data: Broad field
Citizenship/Ethnicity: Broad field

Attrition
Program Data: Overall, broad field

Profile of Data (A-Cohorts) for Ten-Year


Completion Analysis
Program Data

12,135

Gender Data

9,683

Citizenship&
Ethnicity Data

9,359

Approximate distribution across fields

60

Overall Ten-Year Completion Rates


Cumulative Completion Rate (%)
20
40

55

57

51
46
36

23

11

5
3

Source: Council of Graduate Schools


Completion and Attrition Program Data

10

Completion Rate (%)


10 20 30 40 50 60 70

Ten-Year Cumulative Completion Rates by Broad Field


64
63
56
55
49

57
54
48
41

29

7
Year

10

Engineering

Life Sciences

Mathematics & Physical Sciences


Humanities

Social Sciences

Ten-Year Completion Rates for Selected Disciplines


Engineering

64%

Mathematics and Physical


Sciences
55%

Civil Engineering

78%

Mechanical Engineering

66%

Chemistry

62%

Chemical Engineering

63%

Physics

59%

Biomedical Engineering

63%

Mathematics

51%

Electrical Engineering

56%

Computer Science

41%

Life Science

63%

Social Science

56%

Genetics

69%

Psychology

65%

Microbiology/Immunology

69%

Economics

52%

Neuroscience

65%

Anthropology

46%

Molecular/Cell Biology

64%

Sociology

45%

Biology

59%

Political Science

44%

Ten-Year Completion Rates: Broad Field and Gender


70

C o m p le tio n R a te (% )

65
60

64

Fem ale

M ale

59
56

57

56
52

53

50

52

47

40
En g in e e rin g Life Scie n ce s

M ath &
Ph ysical
Scie n ce s

So cial
Scie n ce s

Hu man itie s

Completion Rate (%)


4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18

Annual Ph.D. Completion Rates by Gender in


Mathematics & Physical Sciences

Year
Female

9
Male

10

Completion Rate %
6
9
3

12

Annual Ph.D. Completion Rates by Gender in Social


Sciences

Year
Female

Male

10

Ten-Year Completion Rates: Broad Field and Citizenship


75
70

70

68

Completion Rate (%)

66
63

65
60

59

58
56

55

51

50

52

50
45
40
En g in e e rin g L ife S cie n ce s

M a th &
P h ysica l
S cie n ce s

D o m e s tic

S o cia l
S cie n ce s

In te r n a tio n a l

Hu m a n itie s

Completion Rate %
6
9
12

15

Annual Ph.D. Completion Rates by US Citizenship in Social


Sciences

Year
Domestic

International

10

Completion Rate %
8
12
16

20

Annual Ph.D. Completion Rates by US Citizenship in


Engineering

Year
Domestic

International

10

Ten-Year Completion Rates: Broad Field and Ethnicity


65

61

60

60

60

57

C o m p le tio n R a te (% )

55
53

55
50

47

55

54

53 53

52

47

52
47

51
46

44

45
40

37

37

35
30
Engine e ring

Life S cie nce s

M a th & P hysica l S ocia l S cie nce s


S cie nce s

African Am erican

Asian

H isp an ic

W hite

Hum a nitie s

Ten-Year Completion Rates: Ethnicity + Intl and Broad Field


65
61

60

60

60

57

C o m pletio n R ate (% )

55

55
50

52
47

47

53

53
47

54

55
53

52

51

46
44

45
40

37

37

35
30
Afr ic a n Am e r ic a n
E ngineering

Life S c ienc es

As ia n

H is p a n ic

M ath & P hy s ic al S c ienc es

S oc ial S c ienc es

W h ite
Hum anities

60

Cumulative 10-Year Ph.D. Completion Rates by Broad


Fields for African American Students
Completion Rate (%)
10 20 30 40 50

60
52
47
47

37

Engineering
Math & Physical Sci
Humanities

Year

9
Life Sciences
Social Sciences

10

30

Cumulative Overall Ten-Year Attrition Rates


28

29

30

31

10

27
25

Attrition Rate (%)

23

20

20

10

14

Source: Council of Graduate Schools


Completion and Attrition Program Data

Attrition Rate (%)


10 15 20 25 30 35 40

Cumulative Ten-year Attrition Rates by Broad Field


37
31

32
26.9
26.7
26.2

23
21
20
18

6
Year

Engineering
Mathematics & Physical Sciences
Humanities

10

Life Sciences
Social Sciences

60
40
20
0

Cumulative Rates %

80

100

Ten-Year Continuing, Completion and Attrition


Rates: Broad Field

Engineering

9 10

9 10

Life Sciences
Continuing

9 10

Math & Physical Sci.


Completion

9 10

Social Sciences
Attrition

Other Analysis
By Institution Type (Private vs. Public)
By cohort sizes (Large, Medium, and
Small)
By entering time ( Seven- and four-year
completion and attrition)
Early Attrition (Status of student leaving
program)

CGS Ph.D. Completion Project:


Other Institutional Input
Conduct student exit surveys
Provide pre-project factor assessment data
(for the institution and each participating
program)
Implement new interventions aimed at
improving completion and reducing attrition

Categories of New Interventions

Selection/Matching
Mentoring and Advising
Financial Support and Structure
Program Environments
Research Experiences
Curricular and Administrative Processes and
Procedures

Future Questions to be Addressed in


the Ph.D. Completion Project

Why do students say they complete (or not)?


What are the perceptions about graduate school
of completers and non-completers?
What is the impact of the six categories of
interventions? How does efficacy vary across
broad field and for which populations?
Can we project ultimate completion and time to
degree from our completion and attrition data?