Inside the Black Box of Doctoral Education: What Program Characteristics Influence Doctoral Students' Attrition and Graduation Probabilities?

Ronald G. Ehrenberg, George Jakubson, Jeffrey Groen, Eric So, Joseph Price

NBER Working Paper No. 12065
Issued in March 2006
NBER Program(s):Economics of Education, Labor Studies

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) provided over $80 million to 51 treatment departments in the humanities and related social sciences during the 1990s to improve their PhD programs. Using survey data collected from students who entered the treatment and 50 control departments during a 15 year period that spanned the start of the GEI, we use factor analysis to group multiple aspects of PhD programs into a smaller number of characteristics and then estimate which aspects of PhD programs the GEI influenced and how these different aspects influenced attrition and graduation probabilities. From these analyses, we identify the routes via which the GEI influenced attrition and graduation rates and also indicate which aspects of PhD programs departments should concentrate on if they want to improve their programs' performance.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12065

Published: Ehrenberg, R., G. Jakubson, J. Groen, E. So, and J. Price. “Inside the Black Box of Doctoral Education: What Program Characteristics Influence Doctoral Students Attention and Graduation Probabilities.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (June 2007).

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