Determinants of Persistence of Graduate Students in Ph.D. Programs

Attiyeh, Gregory M.
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Academic aptitude academic persistence biochemistry doctoral programs economics engineering English graduate students longitudinal studies mathematics school holding power student achievement student characteristics student financial aid


This study utilizes longitudinal data on individual students enrolled in doctoral programs from 1989 to 1993 to identify patterns and determinants of their persistence. For each of five disciplines (biochemistry, economics, English, mathematics, and mechanical engineering), a survival model is specified to explain student persistence through the first four years of graduate study. Variables hypothesized to explain persistence include student aptitude and achievement, financial support, and demographic characteristics, as well as characteristics of the programs in which students were enrolled. The statistical estimates reveal significant differences across disciplines, but several general results are apparent: a student with given characteristics is more likely to persist at more selective institutions; other things being equal, a student is more likely to persist if he or she has greater financial support, higher GRE Verbal or Quantitative scores, and a master's degree. Student citizenship, gender, ethnicity, and age are not consistently related to persistence across disciplines.

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