Timing of Attrition
From the standpoint of informing policy, gross completion rates are not considered adequate for measuring attrition, precisely because they do not reveal at what stage students are leaving or whether they have left permanently. Some researchers have, therefore, designed studies that attempt to identify the stages at which attrition occurs and to capture the reason why students quit. One presenter divides those who quit into three time periods: after the first year, the middle stages, and after being advanced to candidacy or the all-but-dissertation (ABD) stage. Some of the factors that may be causing attrition at each stage were:
- After the first year-flaws in selection and graduate school "hazing"
- Middle years-financial and other personal problems which might be mitigated by improved student support or effective monitoring
- ABD attrition-although this stage is believed to account for a large percentage of attrition and is considered the most costly in terms of lost investment by the institution, students, and grant-giving agencies, the reasons are difficult to discern. This group is the most poorly tracked and monitored. One university designates them as ETDCCs -Enrollment Terminated, Degree Candidacy Continues
For the foregoing considerations and others, the presenters at the workshop generally advocated designing research in ways that identify attrition at the various stages of the graduate education process.