Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

A Doctorate Degree Program in Information Systems of a Kind

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

A Doctorate Degree Program in Information Systems of a Kind

Article excerpt


Attrition rates among doctoral students have been a problem for a long time. Numerous studies have been conducted to address the issue of retention among doctoral students, and as a result, the literature lists various suggestions that were aimed to minimize the number of students leaving the doctoral programs prior to completion. As a result, doctoral programs are implementing policies in order to revamp their programs to come to terms with the issue of retention.

This paper explains how one doctoral program from its inception has addressed the issue of retention. The Doctor of Science program in Information Systems and Communications at Robert Morris University (Located in Western Pennsylvania) began in 1999. Through deliberate design characteristics and attributes, the university was able to graduate 90% of their students enrolled in the three year program on time.

The paper begins by presenting statistics regarding attrition rates and the common cited reasons for early exit among doctoral students. Focus then shifts to the discussion of the common characteristics of doctoral programs in the computer/information systems field. To narrow the focus of this study and to provide a baseline of comparison, this paper does a brief review of the computer/ information systems programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Lastly, the discussion is directed to the unique characteristics of the doctoral program and its effectiveness in retention and graduation rates at Robert Morris University (RMU).

Doctoral Attrition - Numbers and Reasons

The high attrition rate among doctoral students is not a new problem. The studies that are conducted for this purpose are numerous. Some of the studies focus on the problems that cause attrition, while others go into detail about the affect that attrition has on students, the university, and society in general (Lovitts, 2001). Moreover, various surveys and annual statistics are produced nationally to address the severity of this problem (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2004).

In one study, the author estimated that about half of all Ph.D. candidates drop out before completion (Powers, 2004). While this study did not clearly define the meaning of "Doctoral Candidates" (after completing the course work or not), nevertheless, a drop out rate of 50% is significant. Another study by Arizona State University surveyed a group of doctoral students to ascertain the percentage of completion after each year. This study tabulated results year by year by listing the percentage of original students who completed the degree. It revealed that a substantial number (about 8%) of the students who started the doctoral program did not complete it after 9 years (Arizona State University, 2003). Although these two studies cite percentages (50% and 8%) that are seemingly different, the second number (8%) suggests a longer time period of study may reduce attrition.

In another comprehensive study conducted for this purpose, the author interviewed students who completed their respective doctoral programs and students who did not complete them. The same author compiled numerous tables regarding attrition rates from a sample of over 800 doctoral students. For example, one table showed that attrition rate is about 33% for departments in rural universities and 68% for universities at urban universities (Lovitts, 2001).

The Digest of Education Statistics for 2002 presents a dire picture about the percentage of students who start high school and ended up being enrolled in the doctoral programs after 10 years. It listed that only .2% (2 in a thousand) of male students and .1% (1 in a thousand) for female students who started in high school ended up enrolling in a doctoral program (NCES, 2004). So, while only one in a thousand of the population enrolls in a doctoral program, still fewer graduate from such programs.

The above studies cited various reasons for such high attrition rates that extend well beyond student lack of interest or the decision fostered by student personal issues. …

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