Phillips, Michael M.


Welsh, Marilyn C., 1955-

Committee Member

Cochran, Kathryn F.

Committee Member

Hanks, Richard Alan


Educational Psychology


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





229 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Due to a variety of factors, there has been an increase in nontraditional students enrolling in higher education. However, little information is available on how nontraditional students experience higher education and the unique barriers and supports they experience. Additionally, the current literature on nontraditional students is limited as many previous studies use age as the sole criterion for nontraditional status; recent research suggests these students fit a broader definition of variables beyond age. The purpose of this study was to utilize a sequential mixed-methods approach to investigate the characteristics of students (n = 236) at a local community college, their rates of persistence and success, the predictive nature of demographic characteristics and social-cognitive factors in terms of student outcomes, and student perceptions following their first semester of college and how those perceptions may have played a role in their persistence and achievement. Demographic data suggested that the typical newly enrolled student showed a delay in enrollment to college, employment in addition to attending college, and financial independence. Despite the fact that over half of the students were age 24 or less, the majority met other criteria for nontraditional student status identified in the literature. Through use of binomial logistic regression, it was determined that the most impactful variable on student outcome was age with older students performing more successfully. Other factors that significantly explained variance in student outcome included self-efficacy beliefs, outcome expectations, and number of nontraditional student criteria endorsed. Interviews showed that among students who withdrew, many reported that the main reason was a disjunct between goals. Students who were placed on academic probation often reported upheaval in their lives, which got in the way of their success. Many of these students also perceived a lack of social supports within the school. Finally, among students who were successful, it was noted that they still experienced barriers which impacted their education; however, in contrast to the less successful students, these students tended to have better self-regulatory abilities to juggle those multiple barriers and responsibilities. There are several implications that can be derived from this study. First, the findings suggest that there is a need to revisit institutional philosophies regarding student readiness in higher education. In addition, findings of this study can be used to inform programs aimed at increasing the likelihood of student success. Intervention programs would be of benefit to students if these programs included a focus on academic skills, mental wellness, self-regulation, and building a sense of community.

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