Doctoral students in the United States are finishing their degrees faster than at any point since at least 1983. But that’s not actually saying much. Their average time-to-degree is still a formidable 7.7 years—and that, of course, is for the students who manage to finish at all. By some estimates, more than 30 percent of the students who enter American doctoral programs walk away empty-handed.
A report released in March by the Council of Graduate Schools highlights some of what the council calls “promising practices” that might reduce attrition rates and average time-to-degree. The report draws on data from more than 20 universities that have taken part in the council’s Ph.D. Completion Project, a seven-year study of doctoral-program attrition—especially the attrition of women and underrepresented minorities.
The practices described in the report include:
- Improving advising and mentorship.
- Increasing financial support.
- Improving students’ early research experiences.
- Improving support and supervision during the dissertation
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