An Analysis of Institutional Characteristics that Contribute to Extended Time to Doctoral Degree
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Title of dissertation: AN ANALYSIS OF INSTITUTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO EXTENDED TIME TO DOCTORAL DEGREE
Helen Schurke Frasier, Doctor of Philosophy, 2013
Dissertation directed by: Professor KerryAnn O'Meara
Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education
Many factors--individual, departmental and institutional--have been associated with longer time to degree and progress toward degree completion. Lengthy time to degree affects the availability of resources, advising, persistence, and degree completion. This research identified institutional characteristics that impacted extended time to degree, relative to discipline, in doctoral programs. The data were drawn from three years of Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) data--2004, 2005, and 2006--and the National Research Council's (NRC) 2010 A Data-based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States. The sample included 18,545 student records representing 58 different fields. Extended time to doctoral degree was defined as completion equal to or greater than one standard deviation beyond the Mean, relative to discipline. The study employed descriptive statistics, Hierarchical linear models, and Analysis of Variance models to test nested student and field data against targeted independent variables in each of nine categories: socio-demographic factors, student qualities and time to degree factors, discipline and institution factors, financial support factors, support and training factors, process and procedure factors, program environment factors, research environment factors, and selectivity factors.
Key findings include writing the dissertation as a critical point for reform in doctoral programs to reduce time to degree for early, average and extended completers. Relationships between diverse students, diverse faculty, and the research environment impact time to degree differently for early, average, and extended completers, which requires additional research. Child dependents increased time to degree for all completers, and primary source of support had mixed effects for early, average, and extended completers. Five recommendations for institutional interventions and additional research were developed based on the study findings: develop programs to support timely (dissertation) writing, conduct additional research on diversity and extended time to degree, develop programs for graduate student parents, reorganize doctoral student financial support mechanisms, and establish program-level review of time to degree. The recommendations are aimed at improving the culture and climate of doctoral education for all graduate students.