Attrition and Completion

    Attrition in U.S. graduate programs is a tremendous waste of American's financial resources and human energies.


    Increasing demand for workers with advanced training at the graduate level, an inadequate domestic talent pool, and a small representation of women and minority graduates at all education levels are among some growing concerns over workforce issues that relate to the vitality and competitiveness of the U.S. economy. Improving completion rates for all doctoral students, and particularly for those from underrepresented groups, is vital to meeting our nation's present and future workforce needs.


    Minority Attrition and Completion in STEM Doctoral Programs

    There is a general underrepresentation of minority students—particularly African American, American Indian, and Hispanic students—in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at the graduate level. The problem of underrepresentation in doctoral education and the academic workforce is exacerbated by the fact that attrition rates from doctoral programs tend to be very high. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF grant #1138814, "Completion and Attrition in AGEP and non-AGEP institutions"), will examine patterns of completion and attrition among underrepresented minorities in STEM doctoral programs across 21 institutions.


    Master's Completion Project

    Master’s education is the fastest growing and largest part of the graduate education enterprise in the United States, yet we lack key information regarding master’s completion and attrition rates and factors contributing to student success. To begin to address that gap, CGS launched a project in November 2010 to study Completion and Attrition in STEM Master’s Programs.


    Ph.D. Completion Project

    The Ph.D. Completion Project was a seven-year, grant-funded project that addressed the issues surrounding Ph.D. completion and attrition. CGS, with generous support from Pfizer Inc. and the Ford Foundation, provided funding in two phases to 29 major U.S. and Canadian research universities to create intervention strategies and pilot projects and to evaluate the impact of these projects on doctoral completion rates and attrition patterns.


    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national advocate for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource for policymakers and others on issues concerning graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS members receive regular updates of legislative and regulatory proposals impacting graduate education and are provided resources to use in advocacy efforts on their campuses and with policymakers and other constituents. 
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.