The call for an increase in college graduates at all levels has placed greater scrutiny on what universities are doing to engage, retain, and graduate students. Institutions and researchers have looked to retention models to guide those strategies; however, most models have focused on the undergraduate student. To date, there is no empirical data that accurately describes the factors that contribute to master's students completion or attrition. The purpose of this study was to determine what master's students perceive to be the personal and program characteristics that contribute to persistence. The study explored the reasons why students enroll in a master's program. The study also sought to highlight program factors designed to attract, retain, graduate and support master's students.
In 2010, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) conducted the first of its kind, a pilot study titled, Completion and Attrition in STEM Master's Programs, designed to study the factors that contribute to successful master's degree completion. The researcher developed a set of survey instruments which were guided by the CGS pilot study: Survey of Factors Affecting Degree Completion (sent to students who have stopped out or dropped out), Survey of First-Year Master's Students, and Survey of Graduating Master's Students.
The data for this study were collected from master's degree programs at a Doctoral Research II University which is one of the region's largest providers of graduate education. Electronic surveys were administered during the fall semester of 2018 and spring semester of 2019.
Many findings from this study were consistent with that of the Council of Graduate School. Overwhelmingly, the top reasons students enrolled in master's programs were to increase their opportunities for promotion, advancement, and pay, to improve their skills and knowledge, to learn something in which they were particularly interested, or to meet the needs of a future employer. Graduating students attributed their success to their own motivation and non-financial family support. Two-thirds of students are motivated and engaged by their program and would like more career advice from their advisor. Students that dropped or stopped out were likely to take a leave of absence because of conflicts with work and/or family.
|Commitee:||Avoseh, Mejai, Robinson, Derrick, Santo, Susan|
|School:||University of South Dakota|
|School Location:||United States -- South Dakota|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Adult education|
|Keywords:||Completion, Master's degree, Persistence, Retention, Success|
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