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

Pilar Mendoza, Pedro Villarreal, Alee Gunderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)650-685
Number of pages36
JournalResearch in Higher Education
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 31 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Doctoral assistantships
  • Doctoral student retention
  • Fellowships
  • Graduate debt
  • Graduate students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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