The completion rate for history students admitted in the early 90s was 64%, nicely in line with their social science division average (which is exceeded only by bio-science; everyone else was around 60-62%). However that figure was arrived at by including two-thirds of students from the 1992-1995 entering classes who are still enrolled: history had nineteen of these 'tenured students' (we're talking people in the 9th to 12th year of their program) the most of any department (in fact, that beats three whole divisions). Now I'm not one to point fingers, having finished in the twelfth year myself, but I do wonder if two-thirds is a reasonable completion rate for this population?
For reference, the Duke History time-to-degree figures show that the median (this is for Ph.D.'s received, so its a different population, but it's still interesting) was a very respectable 6.5 for the early 90s, but it shot up to 8.0 in the late 90s. The national average also rose, though only from 8.6 years to 9.0, but that's still a troubling trend.
Duke is doing reasonably well, but let's talk about that nine-year national average, shall we? My understanding is that just about every major Ph.D. program was working on streamlining the process, building structure into it (more group seminars, dissertation prospectus presentations, multiple advisors) and providing more support (financial aid, teaching, career counseling, etc) so that students would finish in a more reasonable time; instead the number is increasing.
We've talked about the overproduction of Ph.D.'s before; now we need to talk about the training and support they get.