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Monday, September 15, 2008
Study Finds Blacks, Hispanics, Women Take Longer to Earn Doctorates
While 23 percent of whites or Asian Americans who earned doctorates within 10 years did so after the seventh year in doctoral programs, 27 percent of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics who earned doctorates within a seven-year period.
Women are three percentage points less likely than men to complete their doctorates than men in 10 years, but the gap would be even wider if not for women's persistence in such programs. Six years into such programs, women are nine percentage points less likely to have earned their PhDs. The gap narrows as women stick it out and finish sometime after the seven-year mark.
William B. Russel, dean of Princeton University's Graduate School, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that a disproportionate share of minority students enter doctoral programs academically and, in some cases, culturally unprepared for the demands that will be placed on them, causing them to fall behind early on.
Pamela J. Benoit, dean of the Graduate School at the University of Missouri at Columbia, told the newspaper that the report's findings highlight the need for student-retention efforts to take into account where students are in their doctoral studies. "There is a real difference between issues that have to do with early attrition and late attrition," she said. Students who drop out of such programs early on may do so because they chose the wrong programs or lacked access to strong mentors, while students who abandon their quest for a doctorate late in the process often do so because of some conflict with a faculty adviser or a dissertation committee.
The report is titled Ph.D. Completion and Attrition: Analysis of Baseline Demographic Data From the Ph.D. Completion Project. A Chronicle of Higher Education article on it is available to Chronicle subscribers here.