Roughly half of all doctoral students in the United States will never complete their degree requirements (Council of Graduate Schools, 2020). That staggering number is larger for ethnic minority and female students, particularly for Black students who have the lowest completion rate (47 percent) and who make up only 13 percent of doctoral degrees (Lovitts, 2001). Additionally, retention rates for online students are an additional 10 to 20 percent lower than students who attend in-person (Rovai & Wighting, 2005). Thus, ethnic minority students in online doctoral programs are at a higher risk of not finishing their degrees compared to other genders and races (American Psychological Association, 2020).

While research has focused on understanding undergraduate student persistence (Astin, 1999; Bean, 1982; Tinto, 1988) graduate student persistence, particularly doctoral student persistence has been largely underresearched. Given the staggeringly low percentage rate of doctoral student completion, particularly in online doctoral programs, more research is needed to explore this phenomenon. These attrition rates have maintained at steady unacceptable levels for decades and research is starting to identify corrective measures. Accountability for reporting retention rates largely does not exist in the U.S. unless reported to a specific academic governing body or by the university itself. There is no mandatory reporting policy for this student data and data for these retention statistics often goes unreported or underreported by means of a self-report to the NCSES each year (NCSES, 2021).



Tell us how this article helped you.