Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Cooperating University

Western Kentucky University

Department (Legacy)

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education

Committee Chair

Fiene, Jay

Author's Keywords

Student attributes; Doctoral degree completion; Attrition


College dropouts; Dropout behavior, Prediction of; Graduate students


More than a decade after the state of Kentucky enacted higher education reform that provided specific direction to the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, this research study sought to examine the effect of student characteristics and program characteristics on doctoral degree completion. This study attempted to address the following research questions: (1) Do certain student variables (age, ethnicity, gender, financial support, employment, marital status, dependents, distance from campus, debt load, employment status change after comprehensive exams, and enrollment status) affect doctoral student degree completion? and (2) Do program characteristics (graduate orientation programs, departmental assistance, social involvement, dissertation preparation courses, dissertation preparation seminars, clarity and understanding of academic program procedures/requirements, dissertation chair contact, academic involvement, support groups, and mentoring) affect doctoral student degree completion? Study participants consisted of doctoral students that entered the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville spanning the academic years of 1997-2003. Participants completed a survey administered online that was based primarily on the previous work of Vincent Tinto and his survey designed for the National Science Foundation (NSF) called the Doctoral Studies Questionnaire along with a nationally vetted instrument called the Survey of Earned Doctorates. Participants provided demographic data and responded to survey questions about their experiences with doctoral education through a series of Likert questions. The results of the data were analyzed using logistic regression to determine if individual student characteristics and program characteristics influenced doctoral degree completion. The researcher also utilized Pearson Correlations and produced descriptive statistics. Based on the logistic regression results, a statistically significant relationship existed between the dependent variable doctoral degree completion and the independent variables of age, full-time employment, employment change after comprehensive exams, enrollment status, satisfaction with dissertation chair, and satisfaction with academic involvement. Analysis found that enrollment status of the student and the increase of age of the respondent may have a positive influence on doctoral degree completion. Conversely employment status change after comprehensive exams and increased satisfaction with academic involvement indicated a negative relationship with doctoral degree completion. Finally, the variables of increased satisfaction with the dissertation chair and full-time employment of the respondents produced significant positive relationships with doctoral degree completion.