Date of Award

Summer 5-14-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Robert Kelchen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Katie Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rong Chen, Ph.D.


enrollment, graduate school enrollment, undergraduate student loans, student loan debt, STEM, business, baccalaureate, universities


There is a major limitation in this field of literature with limited studies conducted on the factors influencing graduate school enrollment for STEM and business fields after the 2008 Great Recession. During the Great Recession of 2008, approximately 2.8 million students decided to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree. Since then, the cost of a four-year college degree increased by 25 percent and student debt increased by 107 percent (NCES, 2019). STEM and business fields increased by 15 percent during the Great Recession of 2008 in graduate degree programs, graduates, and workforce demand (Anderson, 2013; Okahana & Zhou, 2019; Pappano, 2011). Data drawn from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Baccalaureate and Beyond 2016-2017 survey (B&B:16-17), a multinomial logistic regression was used, and variables were measured within the alignment of the Undergraduate College Choice Theory and Iloh’s model. These variables included three major sections of variables: undergraduate student loan debt, student characteristics and college opportunity, and undergraduate institutional context. The sample used in this dissertation was focused on students that completed their baccalaureate requirements between 2015 and 2016, focused on enrollment to STEM and business-related fields. Major findings were focused on loans, age, race, regional location, and selectivity. There was little evidence of undergraduate loans remaining a major influence on graduate school enrollment. These finding provide support for the need to focus on issues in barriers based on race/ethnicity and financial factors towards enrollment in a graduate degree program in STEM and business-related fields.