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Frequently Asked Questions

Submitting Ph.D. Completion Project Data
Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the data submission process. You may browse the questions and answers below, or click on the following headings to view by category:

General Questions
Ph.D. Completion Template
Ph.D. Attrition Template
Aggregate Demographic Templates
Exit Surveys

Who should submit data?

All universities selected to receive funding as Research Partners are required to submit Ph.D. Completion Project data for participating programs/departments. Participating Project Partners are invited to use these tools and to submit Ph.D. completion and attrition data to CGS for participating programs.

Can we submit data on programs not participating in the Ph.D. Completion Project?

You are welcome to submit data for additional programs; however, please clearly indicate which programs ARE and which programs ARE NOT participating in the Ph.D. Completion Project.

What do you mean by “cohort”?

By cohort, we mean students entering a doctoral program, including those transferring into a program, during a given academic year (summer, fall/winter, spring). [For more information about transfers into a program, refer to the Q&A section about the Ph.D. Attrition Template.]

What do you mean by “candidacy”?

By candidacy, we mean the successful completion of coursework and qualifying examinations. If your program or institution uses a different definition, there is a place on the Completion Template where you can identify your institution or program’s definition of candidacy. The alternative options are:

A. Successful completion of preliminary examinations and/or defense of the dissertation prospectus
B. Award of the master’s degree signifies admission to doctoral candidacy
C. Candidacy is not defined or granted by the institution
D. Other (define) ______________________________

What is the purpose or function of the “Data Verifications ” columns on the Completion Template? The “Attrition Check” columns seem to indicate that our programs have unusually high attrition.

The “Attrition Check” columns include all students who should be accounted for on the Attrition Template. These are simply intended to provide at a glance the number of students who have not completed. The utility of this column increases for cohorts for which 10+ years of data are available. The Attrition Template provides hard data on continuing enrollment and attrition. All reporting and analysis of attrition data should be based on the Attrition Template and not on the “Attrition Check ” columns.

Should we report students in the “Left with master’s degree” column if the master’s degree was not awarded by our program but by another program or university?

This column is only intended to reflect master’s degrees conferred by the program/department on a student enrolled in a “Ph.D. Program”. In this column, please only enter master’s degrees earned within the doctoral program/department and/or “en route” to the Ph.D. The purpose of this field is to obtain information about degree objective in cases where it is either not formally declared OR, where declared, is subject to interpretation.

Are the annual completion (“year 3,” “year 4,” etc.) columns mutually exclusive or cumulative?

Mutually exclusive. Columns are not additive on the Completion Template. Please enter discrete completion data for each year; do not provide cumulative completion data for each cohort.

Are the columns within years and across years on the Attrition Template mutually exclusive or cumulative?

Mutually exclusive, with the exception of the “Continuing” column, which should report the total (cumulative) number of continuing students for the year indicated.

What do the different categories on the Attrition Template mean?

Without MA = Used to count students who withdrew without receiving a master’s degree from the program within the first four years following initial enrollment, meaning “without en route MA,” so that a student who has completed a master’s degree before being admitted to a Ph.D. program would not be counted in this field.

With MA – without C = Used to count students who withdrew after having completed a master’s degree but without achieving doctoral candidacy within the first four years following initial enrollment.

With Candidacy = Counts those who withdrew after achieving doctoral candidacy, with or without a master’s degree, within the first four years following initial enrollment.

Withdrew = Counts students who left the Ph.D. program, with or without master’s degree, after the fourth year.
*[See next question, below]

Transfer Out = Accounts for students who left the program to continue a Ph.D. in another program within the institution or in another program at a different institution (e.g., to accompany advisor to another program or institution)

Stopout = Temporary leave from Ph.D. program (for personal, family, financial, … reasons; intending to return)

Ph.D. Degree = This column of data should automatically transfer from the Completion Template and counts the number of students who have completed and had the Ph.D. degree conferred within the year indicated

Continuing = Accounts for those enrolled in a Ph.D. program and continuing work toward the degree

Info Unknown = This category accounts for those not enrolled, but for whom no further information is known about the student’s status in the Ph.D. program

Why are the different categories for “withdrawal” during years 1-4 combined into the single column “withdrew” after year four?

The degree objective for students enrolled in a program for years five and beyond is presumed to be the Ph.D., precluding the possibility that attrition data will reveal information or trends about those with a master’s objective.

The Attrition Template includes a category for “Transfer Out” but not “Transfer In.” How should we account for students who transfer into one of our Ph.D. programs?

Students who transfer in should be added on the Completion Template to the cohort for the year in which they transferred into the program. You should indicate that you have accounted for transfers in by adding an asterisk (or other marker) to the appropriate cohort year column(s), as depicted in the example below, and including supplemental documentation about transfers into the program. The Completion and Attrition data templates should otherwise be completed according to the template instructions.

Should international students be included in the aggregated race/ethnicity data reported via the Aggregate Demographic Templates?

No. The categories on the aggregate template are for domestic students only and should not include international students. The Aggregate Demographic Templates (revised 3/22/05) each include a worksheet for “International” data; see the Tools and Templates section.

We are interested in implementing the online version of the Ph.D. Completion Project Exit Survey. Can you provide us with additional information?

Both the short form and long form of the exit survey are available in web-based format through SurveyMonkey. The Survey Monkey service is widely known, is currently being used by several participating universities for survey research, and incorporates data-encryption to protect survey responses. Each institution electing to use one or both of the web-based survey templates developed by CGS is required to:

  1. Create their own unique profile with the provider that includes security and data-encryption in order to access the exit survey; and
  2. Identify a secure location within their own institution to store responses to the electronic survey.

We encourage you to test both the standard-length and short-form surveys before committing to purchasing a professional account with Survey Monkey. Both surveys include selected “logic links” to direct the respondent to the appropriate section of the survey based on his or her answer, so you may want to take the surveys several times. The answers you provide to do not impact our study.

If you opt to use the Survey Monkey provider and the surveys developed by CGS you will not need to recreate the survey(s). The CGS staff can transfer the survey file(s) to your account. During the implementation process, we can work with you and your team to make any special modifications (e.g. adapting questions or adding your own logo), before you launch the survey to begin collecting student responses. You will also observe that Survey Monkey is very user-friendly and features an excellent “Help” section to teach you how to use its many features. If you decide to use the web-based exit survey, please contact CGS staff for assistance.