Research in Higher Education

, Volume 55, Issue 7, pp 650–685 | Cite as

Within-Year Retention Among Ph.D. Students: The Effect of Debt, Assistantships, and Fellowships

  • Pilar Mendoza
  • Pedro VillarrealIII
  • Alee Gunderson


This study employs the 2007–2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study and the National Research Center’s survey data, “A Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States,” to investigate the (1) the effects of debt in relation to tuition and fees paid and (2) the effects of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and fellowships on within year retention among Ph.D. students. We created an innovative conceptual model for this study by merging a socioeconomic model for graduate students and a graduate student socialization model. We used propensity score weights for estimating average treatment effects and average treatment effect on the treated as well as a series of control and balancing variables. This study provides timely insights into which of these financial strategies are likely to improve the already low doctoral retention rates nationwide. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that includes proxies of socialization variables in examining the role of various funding mechanisms in doctoral retention using a national representative dataset.


Doctoral student retention Doctoral assistantships Fellowships Graduate debt Graduate students 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pilar Mendoza
    • 1
  • Pedro VillarrealIII
    • 2
  • Alee Gunderson
    • 3
  1. 1.Deparment of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, College of EducationUniversity of Missouri ColumbiaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.College of EducationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  3. 3.Youth Development and Agricultural EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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