Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Doctoral Study

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9780742509412: Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Doctoral Study

Graduate schools have faced attrition rates of approximately 50 percent for the past 40 years. They have tried to address the problem by focusing on student characteristics and by assuming that if they could make better, more informed admissions decisions, attrition rates would drop. Yet high attrition rates persist and may in fact be increasing. Leaving the Ivory Tower thus turns the issue around and asks what is wrong with the structure and process of graduate education. Based on hard evidence drawn from a survey of 816 completers and noncompleters and on interviews with noncompleters, high- and low-Ph.D productive faculty and Directors of Graduate study, this book locates the root cause of attrition in the social structure and cultural organization of graduate education.

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About the Author:

Barbara E. Lovitts received her Ph D. in sociology from the University of Maryland. She is currently a senior research analyst at the Pelavin Research Center of the American Institutes for Research.

Review:

For fully half a century indifferent or inhospitable graduate programs have driven doctoral students to abandon their course of study. Some departments have attrition rates of 80% or more. Meanwhile faculty members and administrators alike have preferred to blame the students rather than themselves. Lovitts' elegantly designed study shows that the fault is structural and systemic. Weaving together clear statistical evidence and telling personal interviews, Leaving the Ivory Tower mounts a powerful and timely argument for institutional reform. (Cary Nelson, co-author of Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education)

Leaving the Ivory Tower will prompt graduate faculty who work with doctoral candidates, to think through their own policies and assess their own behavior in light of what this book recommends. For large programs that may be trying to improve their completion rate, this book will provide a different way of looking at the issue and prompt faculty to re-examine assumptions. Perhaps the best audience for this book is the person thinking about doctoral work, especially those considering full-time doctoral work. The findings of this book could be seen as a guidebook for students wanting to make a choice about where to attend and what issues to consider in their decision. (Journal Of College Student Development)

Lovitts lays a strong foundation for institutional reform in graduate education. She offers a compelling argument that graduate student attrition is a systematic, structural, and cultrual problem that can be solved. Leaving the Ivory Tower is a rich resource for graduate faculty ready to embark upon the road to program improvement. (Anthropology & Education Quarterly)

An important contribution to the literature on student departure and persistence. Lovitts' work deserves a careful reading by doctoral students, faculty, directors of graduate study, and deans alike. (History of Education Quarterly)

Barbara Lovitts's study deserves to be read in a spirit of openness, as she offers some rewarding insights into the student experience. (Studies in Higher Education)

Barbara Lovitts's book shines a light on a generally hidden feature of doctoral study: student attrition. The book is a thought-provoking read for faculty members and administrators working with doctoral students and provides a solid starting point for future research. (Work and Occupations)

Lovitts provides a careful delineation of the issues relevant to early departure from doctoral study. She makes good use of the available data to explore the complex set of factors that contribute to persistence in a program. (American Journal of Sociology)

Lovitts writes well, with passion and often with humor. She provides a demanding engagement with theoretical work, invoking concepts such as personal attribution theory; exit, voice, loyalty, and and neglect theory; and greedy institutions. This culturally sensitive approach is congruent with Tillman's (2002) propositions. Lovitts inserts copious notes to enable the reader to secure more detailed information. (The Review of Higher Education)

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