Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education


The purpose of this study is to expand understanding and discover knowledge about degree attainment among adult learners. This qualitative inquiry is about what 15 bachelor's degree recipients over the age of 25 felt contributed to their efforts to attain the bachelor's degree.

This study contains professional research and expert material on motivation, challenges and barriers, learning preferences, and skills. These areas form the foundation of the study. This research also provides detailed demographic profiles of adult undergraduates and non-traditional-age bachelor's degree recipients, as well as economic data including unemployment, financial aid and debt burden. This inquiry utilizes data, reports and analyses by National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as leading experts in adult education.

To illuminate the experience of attaining a bachelor's degree as an adult, this study employs phenomenological methodology. The data collection consists of in-depth interviews with a select group of bachelor's degree recipients who attained the degree at or after age 25 and within the past 5 years. This study offers rich descriptions of motivation and challenges experienced, as well as competencies, specialized knowledge, resources and support utilized by the study participants to attain the bachelor's degree. In addition, the research discusses the study participants' perspective of the value and meaning of the degree attainment experience.

The data analysis reveals the themes of initiative, mattering, perseverance, resourcefulness, and self-actualization. This research presents a conceptual framework of action, purpose, responsibility, support and value that converges at degree attainment among adult learners. This study discusses implications for higher education, particularly related to persistence, attainment, adult learners and program management.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.