What's cooking for the future in the world of online doctoral programs?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by thomas_jefferson, Jun 12, 2010.

  1. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    You mean you are not you....:rolleyes:? If you are not you, who are you?
  2. carlosb

    carlosb New Member

    Don't feel bad. The same misguided person claimed Me Again and I were the same person. What a cheap shot!
  3. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Good question. If the doctoral program intends (and has the resources) to confer 10 degrees, then it could admit 2 additional, less qualified students. That is providing access, because the students had a reasonable chance of earning the degree, if they could do the work.

    However, if the doctoral program intends to confer 10 degrees, then it shouldn't admit 90 additional, less qualified students; most of those additional, 90 students weren't provided access, because the program never had any capacity or intention to confer degrees on more than the 10 doctoral students it could support and perhaps a few others.

    Does that make any sense? Do you see the hypocrisy in never revealing to those additional students that they never had any reasonable chance of graduating for academic, staffing, or political reasons? Do you see the fraud in selling a product that you never have any intention of shipping? (The exact names of the victims and the precise amounts of the fraud are not known, but a large percentage of the students are being subjected to fraud...)

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.
  4. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    In that context, it makes sense and I see your point. I called one of the Post-Doctoral Bridge Programs yesterday and asked some questions. Explained I plan to have a PhD in business from a non-AACSB school, blah, blah, blah. I was told that someone with an online PhD in business from an online school was admitted to the program last year but he had extensive experience as an Executive VP of Marketing, had quite a few articles published in journals, and wrote a text book. He was the exception to the rule and completed the program successfully.

    I would assume that is the type of person that you would see as admitted that is less qualified when compared to others with a PhD in a non-business topic from an AACSB school. I never looked at it from using a "this is how many people I want to graduate and no more" starting point. Is that normal for a university to have a number in their mind? Wouldn't it be in their best interest to graduate as many as possible (and take in as many as possible) to create a stronger presence in the market? Would that just devalue the degree overall if to many have it? Looking at it this way, you just shifted my world :eek:
  5. cravenco

    cravenco New Member

    I know, and have contact with many who hold a DA or PhD from an online University and a Brick and Mortar type of University. I believe both types are on the same level, with one exception; online DA and PhD holders seem, as I have noticed, more concentrated, in-tuned, and disciplined when compared to many others.

    I know 4 English PhD holders from Old Dominion University. They were hired, not in the academic realm, but in the Business world, and the Supply Logistics world to oversee rather large companies.

    So as long as the quality is seen in the work place, online Doctoral degree candidates and holders shouldn't have a problem.

    (My opinionated 2 cents)
  6. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Randell, I suppose that some schools would deny that they have a fixed number of doctoral degrees that they are willing to confer, relative to their competition.

    However, there are real manpower limitations within any department or school; there is no way that a dissertation from every student who enrolls in these massive programs could be, supervised, read and processed... On the schools part, there is no intent or capacity to graduate everyone.

    Of course, not everyone will want or be able to complete a doctorate, but when a school enrolls two times, three times, four times, or five times (even ten times) the number of students that can be graduated, you can see where this is heading... (Students think they are enrolled in a doctoral program and have a good chance of completing. In fact, they are not really enrolled in a doctoral program at all and have a very slim chance of graduating.)

    In these massive, DL doctoral programs, promises are made and money is accepted for a product / service that can't possibly be delivered.
  7. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    Maybe I live in a different world (a logical one) but wouldn't there be checks and balances in place and enforced by the RA accrediting agency? I remember when I looked into TUI's PhD program and crossed them off for a few reasons and one of them being they were not accepting new students. They said they did not have the staff to support any more doctoral students and were "not allowed" to accept any more at that time (fall 2004).

    NCU sent me a list of Chairs and Committee member to choose from when I enrolled. How many students do you think one Chair can mentor at a time? How many students do you think one Committee Member can mentor at a time?
  8. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Interesting premise; however, doctoral programs do not work that way (at either non-profit or for-profit institutions). Institutions are not limited to how many degrees they can confer--they are limited by how many slots they have for courses, advisers, etc. If they admit 50 students, there is no reason why they could not confer 50 degrees, if the students all finish the program requirements. Sadly, many doctoral students do not complete their course work and others stall out during the dissertation.

    Other than Capella and Phoenix (which are, admittedly, large), I do not know who these "huge for-profit DL programs" are. Northcentral and Walden do not have doctoral programs that are large enough to list them among the 100 largest programs. Their programs are about the same as those at mid-sized state universities. UMUC, Jones International and TUI have small programs and award fewer than 20 graduates a year. Contrary to some opinions, DL doctorates account for a relatively small percentage of the total number of doctorates awarded annually.
  9. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    If this is true, then why do these DL doctoral programs graduate only 1/4 to 1/10 of those they admit?

    The factual evidence suggests they are either admitting too many students are not graduating enough of those they admit. What about informed consent? What about consumer fraud?

    However, you could make theoretical case that these students do not finish their programs, but since there is no such thing as a standardized doctoral process, the argument starts to crumble upon inspection of informed consent, consumer protection laws, sweepstakes laws, and narcissistic personality disorder.

    I'm afraid we have a situation here that Grandpa Wagner observed as a dairyman years ago in Clarion County, PA: "A dairy that doesn't produce milk is just a BS factory..." His none too subtle point was, of course, that an operation should be judged by its primary output. By extension, these DL doctoral programs produce very few doctors and a lot of cash; hence, they are DL educational cash programs that just happen to produce an occasional doctor, like the concomitant manure from a dairy...

    So, Tony, are you suggesting that when Sullivan admits 50 students to its new doctoral program, it will do everything possible to produce pretty close to 50 doctors?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 29, 2010
  10. Dave Wagner,

    Know of any upcoming PhD programs in the works?
  11. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    I have never read an empirical study on the topic, but the estimates that I have seen by those who study doctoral trends (the PhD Project, the US DOE survey of doctorates, etc.) indicate that about 1/2 of doctoral students do not make it to the dissertation stage and that 1/2 of those end up as ABDs. These estimates are for brick & mortar programs. Other than this forum, I have never seen a claim that DL programs graduate only 1/10 of their students. Could you provide something other than your opinion to back that number up (or to show that DL doctorates have a much higher non-completion rate)?

    What factual evidence? Are you talking about the 1/4 who complete a brick & mortar doctoral program as well?

    I'm not sure that you would need to make a theoretical case. The practical case would work just fine. I recently served on the dissertation committee of a PhD at our local state university who investigated why students who were doing well academically dropped out of their college programs. the results were informative, but not particularly surprising: Finance issues, health issues, family issues and job issues topped the list. This would also be true for doctoral students.

    Again, I think that you are making a lot of assumptions without any data to support them. You have not made the case that DL doctorates have attrition rates that are notably higher than their B&M counterparts. I have dozens of colleagues and friends who have chosen to complete their doctorates online via Nova Southeastern, Capella, Walden, Northcentral and Union. All of them finished--they are all doctors. I have also known a couple hundred ABDs, all from RA brick & mortar universities. To single out DL doctorates is neither accurate nor fair. What is the difference between what you describe and the B&M public state university where I used to live that had a 6-year bachelors graduation rate of 12%?

    I'm not suggesting it, I am declaring it. I would guess that our initial class will be 20, who would take 2 classes per quarter. We have 26 terminally degreed faculty on our roster slated to teach doctoral courses (not counting the fact that students will be able to request an an outside scholar to serve on their dissertation committees. While we cannot control for things like health factors, we can make sure that class sizes are reasonable, that courses are well-designed and are taught, that student services and academic advising maintain "high touch," that the coursework facilitates the development of the dissertation (instead of it being an afterthough following comps), that dissertation committee members act as they should, that bureaucracy does not become a bottleneck and stumbling block to student advancement, etc.

    Unlike, the non-profit institutions where I used to work, we must keep track or our retention and attrition and report it to the state (interesting, saince we do not receive state funds). Our retention rate last term was nearly 90% (which compares favorably to our F2F programs and very favorably to other online programs). Just today, I received four applications for our masters programs and had to reject two for not being academically qualified to succeed in our graduate school. It is not in our interest (from a student service, state license or even financial point of view) to enroll students that will drop out.
  12. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Yes, but again, the Post doc bridge is not a guarantee that you will land a tenure track position.

    I believe that a better option would be a Post Doc fellowship at a B&M University. This is not guarantee of a tenure track either but at least you will be paid for the fellowship and some schools grant a certificate that can be used to dress a resume.

    My personal experience has been positive for my DL doctorate. I have not been able to get a tenure track at a research University but used the doctorate for salary increases at few positions as a community college instructor. I have also used it for online adjunct work and recently for a non tenure track but permanent position at an AACSB accredited school.

    Yes, the ideal situation is to go for 5 to 6 years at an AACSB accredited school in order to get your doctorate. However, if you do the math and calculate opportunity cost, the 5 to 6 years of full time study just cost too much and it does not secure a tenure track position. I know quite a few holders of PhDs from AACSB accredited schools teaching in Korea, South Arabia, South Africa or other countries as they were not able to land a faculty job in the US or Canada.

    In few words, the online PhD represents a less risky option as you can keep your current job and keep the door open for academic positions. This is why people are willing to pay small fortunes in order to get one, it is just cheaper and less risky to get it online rather than going full time for 5 to 6 years to a B&M school just to find out that you need to accept a job overseas as there is no way to go back to industry after 5 to 6 years of academic work.
  13. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

  14. scubasteveiu

    scubasteveiu New Member

    I think the 1/4 to 1/10 comment is probably accurate for schools such as UoP. When you finish one degree they immediately start marketing the next. Oh, you have your MBA, how about a DBA? They can afford to have people drop like flies because they do not plan to provide the full program, they instead admit all and continually fill the slots at the bottom. Even with high attrition they make it up in volume and the only limiting factor is the number of available electronic stantions and parlor stalls, so to speak.

    In extended discussions with Capitol College, they found through their own research, that small cohorts (around 15) with high interaction (DL) would produce very high doctoral completion rates --- well above 80%. The rub here is the admission standards, cohort size, and interaction throughout the program.

    I appreciate what UoP started but I sure as hell do not appreciate their current business model nor their method of "learner" management.

  15. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

  16. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Tony, the 1/4 was your graduation ratio for all doctoral programs, which you provided somewhere in this online community. A 1/10 graduation ratio was my estimate for DL doctoral programs.

    In tutoring math to 4th graders, I've found that ratios have to be unpacked into representative numbers for them to be completely understood. (Note that I really do volunteer two hours a week to tutor math to 4th grade kids of color.)

    For example, a 1/4 graduation ratio means that 75 of 100 doctoral students who are admitted aren't graduated. Moreover, a 1/10 completion ratio means that 90 out of 100 doctoral students who are admitted aren't graduated.

    Hence, I understand that you are challenging my estimate that when you consider only the population of DL doctoral students, 15 percent more aren't graduated (90% - 75%). Am I understanding you correctly? My estimate is based on anecdotal evidence from this and other online communities that students in DL "doctoral" programs are quite literally "dropping like flies," especially before the dissertation phase.

    Since I already explained that the increased percentage of 75% to 90% (or lowering of the graduation percentage from 25% to 10%) was a guess due to the shift in the population examined, I would ask you to provide some sort of "factual evidence" to refute my estimate. OK?

    On what factual basis do you intend to refute my estimate that 10% (and not the 25% that you stated) of DL doctoral students who are admitted are finally graduated by their respective universities? Do you have any evidence that the graduation rate is not 5% or 15%, instead of the 10% that I have estimated...?
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Didn't you just pull that 10% figure out of the air? I mean, sure, I'd like to see actual data too, but I'm not sure why we're supposed to take your wild guess so seriously.

  18. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    You're sort of agreeing with me though, right...? Consumers are being exploited and their legal rights are being ignored. Correct?
  19. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member


    To me it is simple, Doctoral degrees were hard to get and very prestigious in the past as the barriers of entry to create institutions that offer these degrees were very high. Nowadays the internet has changed everything as you can get very cheap faculty working online and no need for campuses with expensive libraries and facilities. This has opened an opportunity to offer doctorate credentials as a business by many for profit schools.

    The problem with this is that schools are milking the cows by allowing massive number of students. The market for doctoral holders is very narrow and believe that most of the graduates will work as cheap adjuncts for the same type of schools that graduated them. You have the odd one that lands a tenure track at a B&M University and this become the carrot for the other hundreds that will never make it.

    The business model is great! You pay peanuts to adjuncts that work at home and charge small fortunes to potential students for this education. Potential students are willing to pay the small fortunes as they see the odd one tha gets the tenure track position.

    The problem with this model is that eventually the bubble will burst as graduates realize that their investments are not worth it. Adjunct wages keep going down and tuition fees going up so it is just matter of time till the market collapses.

    The market for online education will grow for sure but my guess is that the DBA or PhD will just become the MBA of today. Tenure tracks in the future will requrire some kind of accreditation or status that couldn't be accomplished online.

    It is already hard as it is to get jobs that require a doctoral credential. I know the case of few new PhDs that graduated from top schools in the US last year that had to take post docs before landing a job. Top schools only graduate a handful of PhDs in business while for profits seem to graduate in order of hundreds just by looking at some of the graduate books of some online schools.

    Consumers are not being abused in my opinion as they know what they are getting into. If you cannot see this by yourself then you shouldn't be granted a PhD on the first place.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2010
  20. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Dave was right to challenge me to take this conversation beyond a mere battle of opinion into a more “factual basis”. Here goes…

    The largest and most cited study to date on the subject of doctoral completion has been the PhD Completion Project by the Council on Graduate Schools (CGS). The study began in 2004 and concluded this year. They collected data from over 400 doctoral degree programs and over 50,000 doctoral students at 29 universities. Considering that estimates place the total number of doctoral students in the country at a little under 400,000, this would represent between 1/7 – 1/8 of total students. According to the NSF/USDOE Survey of Earned Doctorates, about 48,000 doctoral degrees were awarded in 2008.

    The CGS PhD Completion Project looked at completion rates by institution, broad discipline area, more limited subject areas, gender, ethnicity and time to completion. Below are the overall completion rates for those who completed their doctorates between 3-10 years of starting them: 3 years (5%), 4 years (11%), 5 years ( 23%), 6 years (36%), 7 years (46%), 8 years (51%), 9 years (55%), 10 years (57%).

    The NSF/DOE Survey of Earned Doctorates shows that it is common for students in some disciplines (particularly social sciences, education and humanities) to take more than 10 years to complete their doctorates, but the
    CGS study only collected data up to the 10th year.

    The 57% completion rate has been widely reported in many online and printed publications (often as “Half of all doctoral students finish”). I made the mistake of following “ABD” sites that likely misinterpreted the study as meaning that ½ of the students finish their coursework and ½ of those finish their dissertation. Thus my ¼.

    So, was my ¼ figure wrong? Well, yes and no. It is right for 5 year doctoral completion (Dave’s figure is right for 4 year completion); however, if one goes beyond the 57% average and looks at the data for institution, discipline, subject, race & gender, one finds such a wide variation that it renders the overall average rate almost useless. For example, the highest average completion by subject was for civil engineering (almost 78%). Impressive, huh? Well, individual civil engineering programs varied from 33%-82%, so the average does not tell the whole story.

    Here is the link to the PhD Completion Project’s results. As you will see, the variation in the results is quite significant. Quantitative Data by Field for the Ph.D. Completion Project - Council of Graduate Schools

    University of Central Florida (a participant in the study) reported that its doctoral completion rate over 10 years was 28% (Central Florida Future - Study reveals doctorate graduation rates).

    The University of California published its doctoral completion rates by campus and broad discipline. As you can see the variation was so extreme (both within and between its campuses) that they did not even both to compute overall averages (and it was obvious that they would be meaningless). http://www.ucop.edu/pressummit/deg-completion.pdf

    Those of us who have performed research involving analysis of variance know that significance only can occur when the variation of scores between groups is smaller than the variation within groups. In the case of doctoral completion rates, it may be difficult to establish significance, due to the wide variation within the groups.

    So, according to the available data, I will now modify my view: On average, half (rather than one-fourth) of doctoral students complete their degrees within a decade of starting them.

    Now, where does that leave us with regard to the debate about brick & mortar vs. DL doctorates? Of the 100 largest doctoral programs, only two are DL (Capella and Phoenix). To date, there are no comparable studies looking at doctoral completion rates for online doctoral programs, so there is no empirical reason to reject the “null hypothesis” that there is no significant difference between doctoral completion rates of DL and non-DL programs or that the wide variation of completion rates among non-DL doctorates would be any different than the wide variation among non-DL doctorates.

    Thanks for keeping me honest, Dave :)

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