written by: Alex Johnson, Dr. Chara Haeussler Bohan, Dr. Kristina Mickel Clement, Benjamin M. Williams
Graduate students represent the future of any profession, especially in higher education where an advanced degree is required for many entry-level positions. As institutions of higher education seek to recruit a qualified and diverse workforce for the future, they must contend with the challenges that prohibit a diverse body of students from successfully completing graduate degree programs. Significant attention has focused on attrition rates among graduate students and the overall challenges faced (Nesheim et al, 2006; Gardner, 2008; Dowd, 2008; Gardner & Holley, 2001; Lovitts & Nelson, 2000). However, there is limited research on the role that graduate assistantships and other support structures play in attracting and retaining graduate students, especially historically underrepresented students.
The global pandemic and racial reckoning experienced from 2020 forward have exacerbated the challenges that higher education already faced due to ever-increasing costs and financial losses as well as demands from students for more inclusive and equitable learning environments (Marinoni et al, 2020; Burki, 2020; Toquero, 2020; Sobo et al, 2020). In addition to the pandemic negatively affecting the opportunity to work and earn money (Marinoni et al, 2020), graduate students continue to experience insufficient financial compensation and a lack of benefits as compensation for their labor (Cadenas et al, 2022; Flaherty, 2018; Sainato, 2022).
Purpose and Positionalities
The purpose of this research-informed thought paper is to challenge student affairs students, professionals, and faculty like ourselves to think creatively about how to create engaging and supportive environments where diverse graduate students can thrive.
One co-author is currently a doctoral student engaging in educational policy studies and the social foundations of education while conducting various research projects on DEI, institutional leadership, and popular culture. She has worked as a student with various university departments and populations such as admissions, ombuds, student conduct, students with disabilities, and minority affinity groups. She also holds a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and has experienced life as a student/employee at a PWI and a minority serving institution (MSI). She identifies as an African American first-generation college student who is early in her career.
One of the co-authors is a faculty member at the urban MSI located in the southeastern U.S. As a professor and program coordinator, she has a direct interest in making certain that the diverse graduate student population achieves success. She is an upper middle-class, middle-aged white woman who hails from a privileged educational background. Her educational views are shaped by this positionality as well as her 16 years working with diverse graduate students at the MSI.
Another co-author is a student affairs administrator at an urban MSI located in the southeastern United States. She has experience in residence life, fraternity and sorority life, student organizations, and leadership development programs. With over twenty years of experience in higher education, she recognizes the benefit of having a diverse student population engaged in the campus community. She is a first-generation college graduate from a working-class background and recognizes how this experience shapes her work with students and decision to be an advocate for students.
Our final co-author is a doctoral student, fundraiser, and a former administrator at an urban MSI located in the southeastern U.S. As a fundraiser and former administrator, he is invested in creating adequate funding and opportunities to contribute to a diverse university community. He is a middle-class, white man, gay man. His lived experiences and experience shape his views and approach. We enter this work from various sectors and backgrounds that ground our motivation to find answers, challenge others, and relay useful information to our superiors, colleagues, and mentees.
We have organized our manuscript to first provide a review of the relevant literature for context. We then offer a brief summary of our own research about why students succeed or struggle in graduate programs informed by surveys and two-part interviews. We conclude by providing insights into the contemporary challenges, potential solutions, and provocative questions for additional consideration when addressing graduate student retention in pursuit of recruiting and developing a diverse student affairs workforce.
Insights from the Literature
Research that seeks to examine the diversity of graduate students must include consideration of issues of attrition through an equity-minded lens. Grant and Ladson-Billings’ (1997) research on educational equity provides a lens of equity as part of their framework. We employ this framework to examine the current challenges in graduate education. The authors asserted that “the pursuit of equity in education is a dynamic process that recognizes contextual realities…and barriers to the achievement of a truly just distribution of power and opportunity” (Grant & Ladson-Billings, 1997, p. 103). In seeking to understand the challenges of recruiting and retaining diverse graduate students, we focused on the realities that students face. The insights from the following relevant literature informed our work and shaped the questions we pose to the profession in this article.
Graduate Student Attrition
Researchers have asserted that student attrition and persistence are the most studied areas of graduate student education (Nesheim et al., 2006). Given that doctoral student attrition rates have regularly measured over 50% across all disciplines, attrition should be a serious concern for higher education institutions (Bair & Haworth, 2004; Gardner, 2008; Rigler et al, 2017). However, faculty and students give different reasons for graduate student attrition.
Faculty members most often attributed students’ departures to students’ lack of “ability, drive, focus, motivation, or initiative” (Gardner, 2008, p. 104). However, Lovitts and Nelson (2000) asserted that students are abandoning institutions due to issues of programmatic support rather than academic fit. Students also attributed departure to personal problems, departmental issues, or wrong fit for the program or institution (Gardner, 2008; Rigler et al, 2017). Departmental issues include poor advising and faculty attrition issues, financial limitations, and other departmental policies (Gardner, 2008; Rigler et al, 2017).
Additionally, financial issues frequently are a concern for graduate students. Financial stress is the primary reason that graduate students seek counseling services, as concerns about their ability to fund graduate school contributes to emotional distress (Short et al., 2019). While there is limited research on the influence of financial stress on graduate student relationships, existing studies have indicated that financial stress is a contributing factor to interpersonal and marital conflict (Short et al., 2019). Graduate students’ understanding of finances and debt not only influences their retention and persistence in graduate programs but is also a determining factor into whether they chose to pursue advanced degrees. One study of doctoral students found that debt may be a motivator for some students to continue in their graduate programs because of the hope of increased employment prospects after completion (Mendoza et al., 2014).
Impact on Diversity
However, for some groups, an aversion to debt may discourage enrollment in doctoral programs. Dowd’s (2008) research indicated a higher debt aversion among minority students, which influences diversity in graduate programs. Given that first-generation college students, particularly women and students of color, report more debt upon undergraduate degree completion (Gardner & Holley, 2011; Hoffer et al., 2002), these students may be less inclined to pursue graduate studies. A number of scholars have found that attrition may influence graduate student diversity (Dowd, 2008; Gardner & Holley, 2001; Lovitts & Nelson, 2000). In addition, the difficulty in finding out the true cost of higher education and the bureaucratic hurdles involved in completing aid forms erect additional barriers in diversifying college campuses (Levine, 2022).
The Role of Graduate Programs in Diversifying Student Affairs
Graduate programs can be a dedicated pipeline for diversifying the workforce in higher education. The benefits to diversifying faculty and administrative leadership in higher education include: developing a sense of fairness and equity in the hiring process, increasing cultural competency, serving diverse students’ needs, and preparing all students for working in increasingly diverse national and global communities (Bush-Sampson, 2007). In addition to the need for university leadership to reflect the community and its “societal realities”, a diverse professoriate offers the benefits of “intellectual competitiveness, an organizational culture that fosters diverse faculty pedagogical practices, and advancing cultural scholarship perspectives” (Portugal, 2006, n.p.). Diverse environments also promote a “sense of belonging”, “culture of acceptance”, and “a sense of loyalty to the organization” (Wolfe & Dilworth, 2015, p. 671).
Participation in assistantship opportunities significantly increased retention and graduation rates for minority students (Ampaw, 2011; Martin, 2014). While assistantship opportunities are especially important for students who indicate a financial need, many students indicated that assistantships were not sufficient to cover their expenses and they were forced to seek additional employment outside of the university (Gardner & Holley, 2011). The discrepancy among institutions in the ability to provide appropriate financial aid and assistantships to needy students also hinders diversification goals; particularly at private universities that are tuition dependent as well as non-flagship public institutions that face restrictions on tuition rates and lack robust endowments (Levine, 2022)
Graduate Students of Color
Many studies demonstrated the inequitable opportunities available to graduate students regarding funding and assistantship possibilities. Further studies have illustrated how belonging to a minoritized identity affected the experience and performance of graduate students. Harris and Lindner (2016) and Hubain et al. (2018) found that students faced unjust stereotypes from peers due to intersecting identities of students of color and stereotypes led peers to doubt the students’ ability to perform in their assistantship. Additional challenges such as discomfort due to isolation (Rigler et al, 2017), racial battle fatigue, and being “the only one” in their assistantships were found to negatively impact the opportunities available to students for community engagement and learning (Harris & Lindner 2018). The challenges students faced due to their identities impeded their professional and identity development (Harris & Lindner, 2016; Hubain et al., 2018) as well as their sense of belonging and contributed to feelings of imposter phenomenon (Gardner & Holley, 2011).
The challenges for historically underrepresented students in graduate education are significant and it is imperative that higher education embrace equitable and socially just solutions to ensure the successful retention, persistence, and graduation of these students. The literature demonstrates the critical challenge and need for professionals to discuss graduate student funding and support at the start of the graduate school enrollment process. In times of economic uncertainty, it is critical that students have sufficient information to make the best decision regarding their graduate education. The decisions that students make now will influence the future diversity of higher education and professionals today can guide and support these decisions.
First-Generation Graduate Students
First-generation college students tend to come from low-income families and tend to hold minoritized racial identities (Ishitani, 2016; Stephens et al., 2012; Terenzini et al., 1996). While many first-generation students could benefit from financial assistance for graduate studies, research indicates that graduate assistantship opportunities and benefits are often unknown to first-generation students (Gardner, 2013). Hoffer et al. (2002) reported that non-first-generation students were more likely to be employed in assistantships than first-generation students, despite the increased financial need of first-generation students.
Research to Inform this Work
In our study, we explored the following questions: 1) How can a higher education program promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through graduate assistantships? 2) How do finances while enrolled in a doctoral program influence student diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)? and 3) How does faculty support influence student DEI in doctoral degree programs? While significant attention has focused on attrition rates among graduate students, there is limited research on the role that graduate assistantships play in attracting and retaining graduate students including historically underrepresented students. In this research study, we examine how graduate assistantships provide access to graduate education and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Using a two-series interview model and a survey instrument, we approach this topic to understand and explore the impact of assistantships on graduate students.
As noted earlier, we employed Grant and Ladson-Billings’ (1997) definition of educational equity which emphasizes justice and respect for individuals and groups and promotes the idea that all persons are equal despite living in an unequal, stratified society. In the context of education, pursuit of equity, “is a dynamic process that recognizes contextual realities (e.g., institutionalized racism and sexism) and barriers to the achievement of a truly just distribution of power and opportunity, and works constantly to name, address, and dismantle systems of oppression which keep inequality in place” (p. 103). We also utilized Kezar and Posselt’s (2019) ideas of justice and social justice which emphasize the resistance to systemic oppression, democracy, and equity building. In our research, we sought to determine if graduate assistantships could dismantle barriers that block diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
We used qualitative research methods to gather data from participants within the population we were seeking to understand. Subsequently, we gathered rich, descriptive data from graduate students themselves, and together we constructed an interpretation of participants’ experiences (Merriam, 2009; Silverman, 2010; Yin, 2008). In order to conduct this study, we utilized survey and interview data to gain insight into the experiences of the graduate students related to graduate assistantship opportunities (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016).
Our study was rooted in a phenomenological epistemology as the social realities of graduate students are relative to interpretation. We sought to understand a social phenomenon (the experiences of graduate students engaging in a higher education doctoral degree program ) by gathering data from the context in which it already existed. Bogdan and Biklen (2007) stated that phenomenological research is an “attempt to understand the meaning of events and interactions to ordinary people in particular situations” (p. 25).
Furthermore, phenomenology offers the opportunity to study obvious things that have become so “normal” that they might not even be noticed (Vagle, 2018, p.10). The phenomenological framework is appropriate as we examined graduate students completing a doctoral degree program (ordinary people) and their experiences with graduate assistantships (a common phenomenon) (Busey & Russell, 2016).
We recruited participants via a listserv that served doctoral students in the program where we participated as faculty (1), alumna (1), and graduate students (2). We asked that recipients extend the invitation to fellow graduate students, thus utilizing the snowball sampling (Simkus, 2022). We also distributed the call for participants to students who were accepted into the program but who had declined the offer of admission at our institution and accepted a competing offer. This technique extended our participant group to include graduate students at one other institution in the region. One university identifies as urban while the other identifies as a land-grant institution. Participants in the study thus included graduate students enrolled in doctoral degree programs in southeastern institutions of higher education within the last four years. The racial, ethnic, and gender demographics that our participants self-identified as included seven African Americans, four whites, nine women, one man, two non-binary people. Three of our participants self-reported as the first in their family to attend undergraduate school and six participants were the first to attend graduate school. Their ages ranged from 24-46 years old. Thus, the participant group was fairly diverse compared to nationwide data of race and ethnicity of U.S. graduate students (American Council on Education, 2020).
Participants completed a survey questionnaire and participated in two 30-minute interviews for a total of 75 minutes. Participants interviews were recorded via an online platform (WebEx) due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We analyzed incoming and currently enrolled students who both participated and did not participate in graduate assistantships. Twelve students, at varying points in graduate degree programs (i.e., first year and Ph.D. students admitted to candidacy), participated in the three-part study. Participation in the study was entirely voluntary. A goal of the larger study was to track retention and graduation rates, but in this particular study, we asked survey questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as graduate assistantships. We sought to determine if the opportunity to interview and obtain a graduate assistantship fostered a climate of equity and justice.
In our study of graduate students, we found that access to funding through assistantships, as well as academic and personal support, were key factors in students’ decisions to attend graduate school and persist in their programs. Participants in our study identified five themes related to support structures that influenced their retention and graduation. These themes included: financial support, advising, peer support networks, writing support, and a comprehensive student handbook.
Financial assistance through graduate assistantships provides a unique opportunity to address the financial inequality in society and within the educational system. By coupling intentional support for graduate students with financial assistance in the form of graduate assistantships, we found such practices had positive impacts on the experience of students from diverse backgrounds and unique circumstances. As faculty and staff consider opportunities to diversify their applicant pools, graduate assistantships should be evaluated for their potential to attract students who might otherwise choose to join the workforce rather than pursue advanced degrees.
In our study, we found that financial assistance was most often the primary concern for students in determining their graduate program over such issues as program reputation, fields of study, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Students had varying expectations about financial assistance from their graduate programs. While some students expected to obtain loans, others hoped to receive a financial package from the institution and avoid taking on debt to complete their degree. The offer of a graduate assistantship was the determining factor for many students in deciding to pursue a degree at their chosen institution. Noel, a first-year doctoral student, was explicit about how funding influenced her decision, stating, “I wasn’t going somewhere that wasn’t going to give me money. I had no intention of paying for grad school.” Melissa, also a first-year doctoral student, shared, “I got that assistantship, which is the only reason I accepted…the program.” Several students indicated that without the offer of a graduate assistantship they would not have attended graduate school.
As graduate programs seek to increase the diversity of their students, financial aid through assistantships and fellowships must be considered. While students recognized the financial benefits of a graduate assistantship including tuition waivers and stipends, they also raised concerns that the assistantships did not meet all their financial needs and additional employment opportunities, or loans were often necessary to sustain basic living expenses. Elisabeth, a fourth-year doctoral student, shared a story illustrating the financial struggle she faced compared with a graduate student in another department.
A woman that was in my network analysis class is in the school of psychology. She came into the restaurant where I work, and so her and I were chatting and she goes, “How do you do this? How do you work at a restaurant and go to school?” and I’m like, “Well, you know, I have to plan it because my assistantship only pays X dollars,” and…she didn’t tell me how much she gets paid for hers, but she was like, “wow, that’s all you get?”
Kristen, a doctoral candidate, echoed Elisabeth’s concerns about graduate assistant pay, stating,
There’s not a lot of funding, especially in education for, you know, graduate assistantships, or teaching assistantships…There are folks in STEM who I work with at my institution who made quite a bit of money as a graduate student, and they’re able to navigate housing and food and, you know, rent and all those types of things, but in education, we don’t have that same amount of money that is coming to us.
The lack of adequate funding for graduate assistantships in education was a concern for these students.
While graduate assistantships primarily provide a financial benefit, students shared other benefits they gained from their assistantships. Students employed in academic units valued the opportunity to engage in research and teaching with faculty. They appreciated the opportunities to contribute to manuscripts, receive feedback on their research interests, and participate in professional conferences. The experiences working in an academic assistantship helped to develop their sense of identity as a professional in the field. Susan, a second-year doctoral student, valued her relationship with her assistantship supervisor, stating,
It is a partnership because we’re helping each other…I’m helping her and doing lit reviews and creating a presentation and doing things like that. But she’s also helping me and working on manuscripts with me, and…introducing me to people and allowing me to have opportunities.
Students employed in administrative units valued the opportunity to put their education into practice. They appreciated interacting with professionals from various departments and having the opportunity to test out various roles within the university. The experiences working in administrative roles further clarified for students their professional identity and broadened their networks of support. While the benefits noted here are less tangible than a paycheck, students found them to be important to their overall success. As programs seek to attract diverse students, conversations about financial support, its equitable distribution, and identity-conscious practices must be at the forefront of discussions.
While financial assistance was of utmost importance to students, they also noted other support structures that contributed to their retention and persistence. Advising, peer support networks, writing support, and a comprehensive student handbook were all mentioned as positively contributing to the retention of students. Faculty and staff seeking to build robust support for graduate students should consider the benefits of these support structures, especially if the ability to provide additional funding is limited.
Students repeatedly emphasized the importance of a strong relationship with their faculty advisor; however, many were unclear about how they should go about establishing such a relationship. John, a doctoral candidate, articulated the frustration that some students felt in establishing an advising relationship, stating, “I felt really on an island, um, and part of that, I think is my fault, but part of it is also not understanding…exactly what that should look like…that [advising] relationship.” Melissa, a first-year doctoral student, expressed surprise regarding her relationship with her advisor.
I was surprised to find out that my advisor is pretty hands off. Like she’s wonderful and is amazing at getting back to me when I email her. Um, but I, because I’m young and I didn’t really know what I was doing going into this. I kind of figure she’d be like, okay, let me explain this to give you some parameters and then I’m going to push you out, to do your own thing.
Faculty advisors should consider spending time discussing expectations for the advising relationship with students. For first-generation students, there was an expectation that the faculty advisor would provide guidance on degree requirements and help them navigate comprehensive exams, the proposal process, and dissertation. While the students had a sense of their expectations, they rarely communicated them openly to their advisor, which often led to frustration when unexpressed needs were not met. If advisors take the lead in setting expectations, they can ensure that they meet the needs of graduate students or help those students find the appropriate resources. In addition to academic advising, students also hoped their advisors would provide feedback on their writing, share professional development opportunities, and take an interest in the students’ research.
Graduate students’ descriptions of their advisors revealed vast differences between students with hands-on advisors compared to those whose advisors expected them to already know the academic processes or ascertain those details on their own. For several subjects of our study, this form of disengaged advising created setbacks and complications in their academic progress including delayed graduation. John, a doctoral candidate, believed the lack of communication with his advisor “really delayed some of the work” and made it more difficult for him to navigate through his dissertation proposal. Kristen, a doctoral candidate, shared that she had been “focused on one kind of topic and theme, then was told, nope, can’t do that for comps,” so she was forced to change her topic after spending three years of coursework focused in one area. Kristen believed the change of topic set her back in her plans to complete her degree in four to five years. John and Kristen’s experiences highlight the direct role that advisors play in retention, persistence, and graduation of doctoral students.
Peer Support Networks
In addition to proper advising, students noted a supportive peer network was essential to their success. Participants valued the efforts of graduate programs to connect students to each other, whether in the form of orientation sessions or cohort meetings. Susan’s advisor organized regular meetings with her advisees, which allowed Susan to connect with “students who are in different parts of the program as well as students who already graduated..[to] meet and talk about issues and just offer support.” Susan found the opportunity to gain support from other students helped her to manage because “sometimes the program is very isolating, extremely isolating.” Students were also eager to participate in student associations with their peers where they could work together on professional development opportunities or obtain funding for conference travel. Developing relationships with students outside of the classroom helped ease classroom interactions and provided opportunities for study groups and peer review. Students who were further along in their graduate studies relied heavily on peer relationships to help them through the independent phase of their program. Kristen shared that her peers not only in the program, but her campus colleagues as well, helped her by talking through issues she was facing. Kristen was able to ask, “Here’s what I’m navigating you know, help me support X, Y, and Z.” Based on students’ feedback, faculty and staff should actively encourage the development of peer networks to support graduate students.
Many graduate students expected to have writing support in their programs. Students who did not feel like they had strong writing backgrounds actively sought out the campus writing center for support. Noel, who described herself as more analytical, sought out the writing center because “the transition to writing was something that [she] was super nervous about.” Other students joined writing circles where they met regularly with a group of students to write together and share feedback. Elisabeth found “a support structure in a writing group from [another] department,” where she met twice a week for three hours to write in a supportive environment. Still, other students sought out their advisors for feedback on their writing. Students recognized the importance of writing not only in their academic programs but also as a tool for career advancement. Given the emphasis on writing for publication, particularly for tenure-track faculty, a focus on developing writing skills and writing support structures is a necessity for graduate programs.
Comprehensive Student Handbook
Finally, many graduate students expressed a desire for a student handbook that would clearly outline the degree requirements and expectations. Due to the varying levels of support among faculty advisors, students acknowledged the need for a student handbook that provided a checklist of degree requirements and an explanation of the various processes involved in pursuing a doctorate degree. For many first-generation students, requirements such as residency, prospectus, and comprehensive exams were unclear, and they wanted help in understanding these elements of the program. John, a doctoral candidate, articulated this need best, stating:
Part of it [struggle with advisor] was also being told, I mean, there’s a manual for it somewhere. Like, you got to just go find that manual. That was the other thing that I got in my master’s program that I didn’t have here was a student guide, um, that had all the courses that would be required and a checklist that you would go through.
While a manual may have been available to John, he did not know how to access it, thus rendering it useless to him. Graduate departments should consider developing handbooks or other resources for students and clearly communicating to students how these materials can be accessed.
Our study adds to the existing literature in a number of ways. We found that in addition to students’ primary concern for financial support that covers tuition and living costs, other forms of support were important to maintain or increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in graduate programs. This includes support from the supervisors of students in their assistantships, academic advisors, as well as peers. In peer networks advanced graduate students help guide newly admitted students. Other support graduate students noted were critical to their ability to find success included writing assistance (feedback from faculty, informal and formal writing groups), and a comprehensive student handbook. Commitment, as well as information about these various kinds of support, should happen when decisions about admission are being made at the very start of enrollment in graduate programs.
Implications for the Future
Equity, inclusion, and access are important areas for higher education to address. One area that can provide a broad and immediate influence is the retention, progression, and graduation of students from historically marginalized groups. Successfully graduating more students from historically marginalized backgrounds diversifies the pipeline of qualified candidates for faculty and administrative positions. Whether academic programs utilize a handbook or website, students desire a way to ensure their degree progress, especially if they have faculty advisors who are not well versed in program requirements. Clearly outlining program expectations not only benefits currently enrolled students but also provides guidance to those students who may be in the process of evaluating academic programs for future enrollment. Additionally, this guiding resource would provide a resource for faculty to share to limit the total strain on their time.
While the challenges that graduate students from historically marginalized backgrounds face are significant, faculty and staff can take the steps to help mitigate those difficulties. Access to financial assistance through graduate assistantships should be a top priority for institutions seeking to diversify their graduate student populations, but other support structures such as academic advising, peer networks, writing support, and student handbooks should also be considered and implemented. To ensure a competent and diverse pipeline of future professionals, faculty and staff must reconsider what it means to provide adequate support to graduate students, and the recommendations that we have outlined offer a starting point for this shift.
Questions for Your Consideration
Recognizing the inherent inequity of the student experience is important when institutions fail to retain students from historically excluded backgrounds. Failing to address the inequity furthers the negative impact on retention for graduate students of color. The enrollment landscape and continued diversification moving forward will increase competition and require that universities both acquire and retain graduate students to maintain the viability of programs. An important question to contemplate is how graduate students working in poorly funded content areas, such as education or the humanities, can acquire graduate assistantships that provide financial support comparable to more robustly funded fields such as science, technology, and business.
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About the Authors
Alex Johnson works with the Office of the Ombudsperson as a graduate research assistant and is in her 2nd year as a doctoral student in the Educational Policy Studies program with a concentration on Social Foundations at Georgia State University. She hails from Cincinnati, Ohio where she earned her B.A. in Spanish and M.A in Higher Education Administration at the University of Cincinnati. Her professional experiences include teaching elementary school, and working with students with disabilities, minority affinity groups, and advocacy organizations in the U.S. and abroad. Her research interests include access and retention, leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion, and cultural exchange in higher education.
Dr. Chara Haeussler Bohan, Professor, Georgia State University, College of Education and Human Development, Department of Educational Policy Studies, specializes in educational history with a focus on gender and race, curriculum and instruction, and social studies education. She has approximately 100 publications. She is co-author, with historian H. Robert Baker and Black history educator, LaGarrett J. King of the forthcoming book, Teaching Enslavement in American History: Lesson Plans and Primary Sources (Peter Lang, 2022). She has been awarded three grants titled, “Courting Liberty: Slavery and Equality Under the Constitution, 1770-1870” sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Kristina Mickel Clement is the Assistant Dean of Students for Leadership and Service at Georgia State University and has worked in higher education for over 20 years in housing, first year programs, fraternity and sorority life, and leadership development. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science, a Master of Science in College Student Personnel, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Policy Studies. Her doctoral dissertation focused the history of the First Amendment on college campus and its influence on student activism.
Benjamin M. Williams is the Donor Experience Officer for Georgia State. He spent the first eight years of his career as an administrator in Student Success & Student Affairs most recently as the Director of Student Orientation & Family Engagement. He received his B.A. in Sociology from Georgia State and his M.S. in Educational Leadership at Miami University. Benjamin is also a doctoral student at Georgia State University where he focused on higher education, physical space, and student success enhancements.