Council of Graduate Schools

To launch a project focusing on completion and attrition in STEM Master's Programs

  • Amount $658,687
  • City Washington, DC
  • Investigator Debra Stewart
  • Year 2010
  • Program Higher Education
  • Sub-program Science of Learning STEM

In February 2009 the Foundation funded a project by Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) to enable them to develop a national strategy for enhancing the completion rate in STEM master's degrees. With these funds, CGS surveyed what was known about this subject, produced a paper that summarized what is known, outlined a research agenda for improving knowledge about what affects attrition and completion rates, and began laying out a taxonomy of STEM master's degrees. They also convened a meeting of researchers, graduate deans, and others to discuss the paper and what CGS could and should do further in this area. The strategy that emerged from this preliminary work calls for a two-phased follow-on program. The first phase, funding for which is provided through this grant, would (a) further develop a taxonomy of STEM master's programs; (b) establish standardized definitions for "entry", "attrition", and "completion" in STEM master's programs; (c) provide a first look at comparable completion and attrition rates within STEM master's programs in a variety of programs in a selected number of institutions; and (d) determine factors perceived to affect student success or attrition and identify promising practices to foster student success. Based on what is learned from all this, CGS will decide whether a second phase is warranted that would gather data on completion and attrition from a larger, more representative set of institutions and track implementation and effects of promising interventions designed to improve outcomes for all or a subset of STEM master's degree types.

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