Date of Conferral







Jessica Tischner


U.S. doctoral program completion rates have remained persistently low in the humanities and biomedical sciences despite educators' efforts. A variety of factors, including stress and dissitation advisor-related issues, were associated with high attrition rates and extended time-to-degree for PhD candidates. The purpose of this correlational study was to examine relationships among life stressors, advisor-related factors, and time-to-degree for a convenience sample of 74 online social sciences doctoral degree holders. Holmes and Rahe's work on stress and Tinto's framework for education program attrition provided the framework for the study. Linear regression and Pearson's correlation statistics were used to examine the relationships between Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) scores, Advisor-Related Factor scores, and time-to-degree after controlling for covariates of age, ethnicity, and gender. Key findings included: a) SRRS significantly (p < .01) predicted time-to-degree after controlling for age, ethnicity, and gender; and b) no significant relationship was found between advisor-related factors. By identifying at-risk students, early intervention could reduce the time need to complete a PhD program and reduce financial and university resources required to finish. Doctoral program administrators could provide closer supervision with PhD candidates and make adjustments based on an accumulation of extraordinary stressors to help PhD candidiates adjust and finish their programs.