Program Design and Student Outcomes in Graduate Education
36 Pages Posted: 9 May 2006
Date Written: March 2006
Doctoral programs in the humanities and related social sciences are characterized by high attrition and long times-to-degree. In response to these problems, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation launched the Graduate Education Initiative (GEI) to improve the quality of graduate programs and in turn reduce attrition and shorten times-to-degree. Over a 10-year period starting in 1991, the Foundation provided a total of over $80 million to 51 departments at 10 major research universities. We estimate the impact of the GEI on attrition rates and times-to-degree using competing risk duration models and student-level data. The data span the start of the GEI and include information for students at a set of control departments. We estimate that the GEI had modest impacts on student outcomes in the expected directions: reducing attrition rates, reducing times-to-degree and increasing completion rates. The impacts of the GEI appear to have been driven in part by reductions in entering cohort size, improvements in financial support and increases in student quality.
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