Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

First Advisor

Valeri Helterbran, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Amber Racchini, D.Ed.

Third Advisor

Mark Twiest, Ph.D.


This study used a qualitative interpretive approach to examine perceptions of adult students in their final semester prior to graduation by analyzing what they believe contributed to their persistence to degree completion. Participants were all pursuing undergraduate degrees, were 25 years-of-age or older, and were enrolled in one of three schools within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The research revealed that motivations of employment, family support, and maturity levels were the three main contributing factors that adult students believed were the most important to their persistence. In addition, participants of the study largely held no regrets that their journey to graduation did not have a traditional path. Participants also held low expectations on what they thought their university should do to support them, and they lacked a sense of institutional connectedness.

This study was significant because it added to scant research on the topic of adult student retention. It concentrated on areas that have been largely overlooked in most retention research, and provided insight into what factors contribute to the persistence of adult learners.