BOX 5-1

Financial Support of Doctoral Completion

The overwhelming majority of respondents received financial support for their doctoral study (94 percent) and 70 percent reported that they were guaranteed multiyear support at the time of admission. Compared with graduates in other fields, engineering and humanities graduates were less likely to report that they had been offered guaranteed multiyear funding at time of admission. For example, only 63 percent of engineering doctoral students and 66 percent of humanities students reported being offered guaranteed multiyear funding at time of admission compared with 72-73 percent of students in mathematics & physical sciences and social sciences and 77 percent of those in life sciences.

Doctoral students in mathematics and physical sciences appeared to have the most generous offers at time of admission, with 22 percent reporting that their offer included six or more years of guaranteed funding, and only 13 percent reporting that they had been offered funding for two to three years. In contrast, only 2 percent of students in social sciences and 8 percent of those in humanities reported receiving offers guaranteeing support for six or more years, and 25-28 percent reported funding for two to three years.

Teaching assistantships tended to be more common in humanities, social sciences, and mathematics & physical sciences than in engineering and life sciences (72-81 percent compared with 51-56 percent). Among those with teaching assistantships, there appeared to be considerable consensus that being a teaching assistant increased the length of the program, and this was particularly true among engineering and life sciences graduates, 88-89 percent of whom reported that teaching assistantships had increased the length of the program.

Close to four-fifths (78 percent) of engineering graduates had received a research assistantship compared with only 28 percent of humanities graduates and 45 percent of life sciences graduates. Among those with research assistantships, there was considerable diversity of opinion regarding its effect on the length of time to degree completion. While 52-54 percent of social sciences and humanities graduates reported that this type of assistantship increased the length of the program, only 22-25 percent of those in life sciences and mathematics & physical sciences fields did so.

Only 60 percent of humanities graduates reported being satisfied with the level of financial support they received during their doctoral program compared with 74 percent of social sciences graduates and 80-85 percent of those in the mathematics & physical sciences, engineering, and life sciences. This is partly explained by the fact that Humanities students were the most likely to work outside the university during their program, to take out loans to support their study, and to report heavier overall burden of debt.


SOURCE: Ph.D. Completion and Attrition: Findings from the Exit Survey of Ph.D. Completers, Ph.D. Completion Project. 2009. Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools.



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