Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Educational Administration


Educational Leadership, Counseling, and Foundations

Major Professor

Del Favero, Marietta

Second Advisor

Bedford, April

Third Advisor

Cropley, Lorelei

Fourth Advisor

Perry, Andre


The purpose of this research study was to investigate the phenomenon of the conflicting roles, such as parent, spouse, employee, caregiver, and community member/volunteer, associated with the lives of nontraditional college students and to reveal how these conflicting role obligations influence these students' persistence toward the attainment of an undergraduate degree. This study provides a brief history of adult education in the United States as well as the study context, a continuing studies division of a privately endowed research institution located in the southern United States. The participants in this study were nontraditional students who were also recent graduates of this continuing studies unit. This study drew upon the literature of nontraditional students in higher education, as well as literature on role theory, adult development theory, adult learning theory, and student persistence theory. This study used a phenomenological qualitative approach as a means of discovering the lived experiences of nontraditional students as these experiences relate to the conflicting roles of nontraditional students and their decision to persist toward the attainment of a bachelor's degree. Several important findings were discovered. In order to negotiate their conflicting roles, these students used several strategies as a means of helping them to balance their roles. This study also found several motivational factors that prompted nontraditional students to pursue a bachelor's degree at this time in their lives. The obstacles and challenges that these students confronted were also revealed, and in order to overcome these obstacles and challenges these students relied on several support systems. The reputation and prestige of this university was also found to be an important factor in the students' decision to attend college at this stage in their lives. Additionally, the various forms of assistance that this continuing studies unit provided encouraged students to persist.


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