The path to timely completion : supply- and demand-side analyses of time to bachelor's degree completion
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Time to degree is a key factor in institutional productivity and managing the costs of college for students and families. While there is a robust body of empirical and theoretical work addressing baccalaureate degree completion and persistence, much less is known about the factors that affect time to degree. Most importantly, the institutional factors associated with time to degree have been largely unexamined, with a primary focus on the characteristics of students who delay graduation. As a result, it is unclear if students or institutions should be the target of policy interventions. This dissertation is comprised of three quantitative studies that examine supply- and demand-side factors that contribute to timely—or not so timely—completion using statewide longitudinal student-level data from Texas. The first study uses a discrete-time hazard model to analyze a rich set of institutional and student factors that influence the choice between on-time graduation, late graduation, dropout, and ongoing enrollment. The second explores the impact of student transfer on time to degree and one possible mechanism for delay using propensity score matching analysis. The third examines excess credit accumulation, specifically how the number of credits an institution requires for graduation affects student course-taking behavior using fixed effects analysis. Results suggest time to degree is a complex phenomenon and both student and institutional factors are significantly associated with time to degree. Student transfer and credit requirements are associated with excess credit accumulation and longer times to degree. Supply side policy strategies targeting institutional resources, transfer, and graduation credits are promising, although there is evidence that strategies aimed at improving efficiency can be in tension with strategies that improve equity in higher education and degree completion.