Date of Award

Spring 5-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Jann Weitzel

Second Advisor

Dr. Rita Kottmeyer

Third Advisor

Dr. Chad Holloway

Abstract

This was a blended qualitative and quantitative study, which investigated adult student and instructor perspectives, motivators, factors and life events that have affected adult students as they pursue their degrees. This study also examined the environment, format, and course content of accelerated degree programs. This study focused solely on undergraduate degree programs. The null hypothesis of this study was that accelerated degree programs for adult students will not result in higher retention rates than traditional day programs. The null hypothesis was rejected. This study is significant because, as pointed out in Stephanie Armour’s June 12, 2003, USA Today article, adults are returning to colleges and universities in unprecedented numbers. Adult learning habits, motivations, and life circumstances differ substantially from those of the traditional student, and the differences must be understood if the higher education community is to properly serve their adult students. This study examined the adult student from a variety of aspects, and for the purposes of this study, only undergraduate students were surveyed. Data were gathered from student surveys and a focus group discussion. Surveys showed relationships and development of trust were important to instructors and students and that a variety of external factors, including financing the degree, academics, advising and classroom location, all were important to the adult student. Retention data from both traditional and accelerated programs at the study university were analyzed to determine if any significant differences in retention existed between these varied programs. The study did find a significant difference between the programs. An accelerated program of undergraduate degrees was examined in-depth. Results from the examination indicated that the accelerated program was highly regarded by adult student participants, the adult iii students felt respected, the students felt the academic requirements of the program were challenging, but not impossible to achieve, and that the education they were working to achieve was of utmost importance to future career prospects and to their personal self efficacy. Institutions of higher learning considering implementation or revision of existing accelerated programs targeting adult students will benefit from this study by the insights provided and from the review of a successful accelerated program.

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