Date of Award

Fall 8-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Dr. Sherry DeVore

Second Advisor

Dr. Rhonda Bishop

Third Advisor

Dr. Brad Swofford


The demand for individuals holding a college degree is expected to increase by 16% by the year 2018 with approximately 66% of all jobs requiring some form of posthigh school training (Kelly & Strawn, 2011). Also increasing in numbers is the number of nontraditional college students seeking a degree. Nontraditional students returning to school often have outside barriers that can challenge degree attainment, placing them at risk for dropping out. Using Schlossberg’s (1989) theories of mattering and marginality as a guide and through a qualitative approach to research, data were collected from a private, Midwestern, single-purpose college to explore what nontraditional students perceived as either mattering or marginal during their educational experience. During the open-ended interview format, nontraditional students and faculty were asked questions focusing on their perception of the educational experience inclusive of what they felt contributed or did not contribute to their experience. A total of 12 nontraditional students and three faculty members within a cohort program participated with three themes rising from the data: connectivity, tenacity, and sacrifice. The findings were consistent and validated Schlossberg’s (1989) theories of mattering and marginality with students and faculty expressing an insightful and very distinct connection with each other during the program resulting in increased motivation and fortitude to stay the course.


Copyright 2015