I read an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education today titled: Economists Ponder How to Help Speed Up Ph.D. Completion. It tells of Wendy Stock‘s study (pdf) of 586 students who entered 27 doctoral programs in 2002.
After five years, 27 percent of the students had finished their degrees, 34 percent had dropped out, and 39 percent were still working toward their degrees.
Not too good! The study tried to tease out the explanatory factors:
Students are less likely to finish on time if the program does not offer every first-year student a shared office space. If a large number of students drop out in the first two years, the survivors are less likely to finish on time. And—to Ms. Stock’s surprise—students are more likely to finish on time if they enter as part of a large cohort.
I share office space with 6-8 students, nobody has dropped out since the center began six years ago, and my cohort has 4 students. Perhaps I am right on track. It also helps to be a part of 20-25 students who are also studying in the same discipline.