Author Biography

OSASOHAN AGBONLAHOR is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs. Her intellectual interests are in the fields of the economics of education, international education, and higher education policy. Her research focuses on labor market outcomes of higher education, the career trajectories of international doctoral recipients and the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.


Time-to-doctoral degree has consistently increased in American universities since the 1960s. The elongated time-to-degree has cost implications, not only for the degree granting institutions, but for doctoral recipients, particularly their international counterparts. This paper examined the effect of various factors, including financial aid, demographic characteristics, and home country economic conditions on international doctoral students’ time-to-degree completion. The Push-Pull Model and human capital theory formed the conceptual framework for this study. Utilizing multiple regression and multilevel analysis on a set of student demographic characteristics, country-level economic factors, financial aid packages, and institutional level variables, the study finds that that foreign government aid is the most significant financial support for international doctoral students. Foreign government funding significantly reduced time-to-degree across regions and economies. Economic conditions in the home country are also an important factor affecting international doctoral student outcomes. Students from poorer countries took significantly less time to complete their degrees compared with their counterparts from richer countries. Higher U.S. assistant professor salaries also impacted on international doctoral student outcomes by increasing time to doctoral degree completion. The study provides recommendations for foreign governments, U.S. state governments and policy makers, as well as institutions of higher education.

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