PhD Dropouts

While policymakers might be forgiven for failing to address this issue, apparently dropouts aren’t just a problem for high schools and colleges. By some accounts, in fact, 30 percent of people who start PhD programs never finish. Some academics apparently find this troublesome. According to an article by David Glenn in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

A report that will be released Wednesday 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 report recommends improving faculty mentorship and research experiences, increasing financial support, and creating a better environment for dissertation supervision.

A question curiously unaddressed by the study, however, is why American universities should really bother trying to help more people to complete PhD programs. In fact, the United States has for years produced far more PhDs, particularly in the liberal arts and the social sciences, than there are academic jobs available for them.

Read the Council of Graduate Schools report here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer