NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: ED517855
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 250
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1241-1366-1
A Grounded Theory of Adult Student Persistence
Capps, Rosemary
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Utah
This grounded theory study investigates adult student persistence at a community college. Student persistence in college is a prerequisite for degree achievement, which correlates with higher earnings and overall better quality of life. Persistence rates remain low for adult students, who combine their college endeavors with responsibilities to families, careers, and communities. However, some adult students do persist despite their life circumstances. Understanding the perspective of persistent adult students contributes to the creation of college systems and policies that support adult student success. Findings draw on four rounds of iterative semistructured interviews with nine adult students at a community college during three consecutive semesters, as well as a demographic survey, participant checks, and field notes. Concurrent data collection and constant comparative analysis led to the development of a substantive grounded theory, presented in the context of literature on student persistence, adult learners, and related sociological and psychological concepts. First, the study describes persistent adult students' experience. Participants maintained a constant balancing act, facing financial pressures, competing priorities, and for some, a language barrier. Second, the study analyzes influences from personal and institutional spheres that shaped participants' persistence. Influences from the personal sphere included both help and hindrance through employment, material support, models and mentors, and religion. Influences from the institutional sphere were subtle but still powerful, as teachers, advisors, and student peers contributed to a campus climate that participants perceived as supportive of their persistence. Third, the study explains why participants persisted, using a grounded theory based on three core concepts: agency, development, and framing. The theory suggests that persistent adult students undergo a cyclical process. Because of the way they frame their identity and acceptable choices, they focus their resources, repeatedly reminding themselves that they are persistent and that college persistence is their only or best option. Through time and interaction with social networks and life events, their exercise of agency--choosing to persist--shapes and is shaped by their development. This grounded theory joins other psychological explanations for persistence but emphasizes the balance between individual and institutional responsibility for adult student persistence in higher education. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Adult Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A