Education

Why graduate students leave without finishing

Posted July 20

Why do half of doctoral students leave graduate school without finishing?

Recent research has shown that most graduate students possess the academic ability to complete their studies, but systemic issues in the school system have led to mental distress among many graduate students, according to the Atlantic.

Peterson's, a site that focuses on information about various colleges, noted graduate degrees can be difficult to attain for various reasons, including competitiveness, stress, emotional and financial support and the difficulty of forming a thesis.

“You become overly fixated on what your professors think of you,” Karen Kelsky, a former professor and academic career coach, told the Atlantic. “Paranoia is quite rampant in Ph.D. programs because Ph.D. students can get so isolated and so fixated on whether or not the people in authority (committee members) approve of what they're doing since they have total authority to grant the degree.”

Leonard Cassuto, an English professor at Fordham University, wrote for The Chronicle, "Not all graduate students will stay the doctoral course, but more of them should — and when half do not, it's our fault."

The Atlantic noted the study "Re-Envisioning the Ph.D." by Jody Nyquist, the former dean of graduate studies at the University of Washington. For the study, Nyquist asked doctoral students about flaws they saw in graduate programs. Most students complained about "a lack of quality mentoring and support from faculty."

The Ph.D. Completion Project, a seven-year, grant-funded project that addresses issues surrounding doctoral completion and attrition, listed mentoring as one of the key factors influencing graduate student outcomes. Program selection, financial support, program environment, research mode of field, and processes and procedures were also listed.

The site mentioned that increasing demand for workers with advanced training is a growing concern for the health and competitiveness of the U.S economy. According to Peterson's, the completion of a graduate degree does not guarantee a higher salary and may increase student debt.

According to the report "The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in The United States," by 2018, 2.5 million jobs are estimated to require advanced degrees. Additionally, the report mentioned that political and economic shifts have emphasized the economic benefits of a highly trained workforce.

The report explained that less than 25 percent of doctoral students complete degrees within five years and as many as 47 percent take a total of seven years for completion.

Although obtaining a graduate degree is a tough and extensive process, it has been proven to come with several benefits. These include career challenges, travel opportunities, research opportunities and higher potential for future promotion, according to Peterson's.

Email: mmcnulty@deseretnews.com

Twitter: megchristine5

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