Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Alan Hovestadt

Second Advisor

Dr. Walter Burt

Third Advisor

Dr. Theresa A. Powell


Research studies have been conducted to investigate barriers that inhibit the ability of adult students to obtain a postsecondary education (Powell, 1989; Shields, 1990). These studies suggest that there are three distinct categories that could be used to describe this phenomenon: (1) situational, (2) dispositional, and (3) institutional. The overall purpose of this study was to determine what barriers, if any, are experienced by nontraditional African-American students in selected Midwest community colleges in comparison to White adult students according to selected demographic variables (e.g., age, sex, marital status, number of children, employment, status, income, and race). More specifically, this study provided answers to the following two questions: 1.

Were there any significant differences between adult African-American students and their corresponding White counterparts concerning their perception of situation, dispositional, and institutional barriers to achieve a postsecondary education?

2. Were there other barriers that impede African-American adult students’ ability to complete a postsecondary education?

For this study, 1,558 nontraditional students age 25 and above were selected from Lansing Community College, Muskegon Community College, and Grand Rapids Community College. The respondents were asked to answer 24 questions, on a scale from I to 5, pertaining to selected situational, dispositional, and institutional barriers that they perceived had an impact on getting an education. Additionally, the respondents were requested to provide demographic information, such as income, gender, number of children, and employment hours per week. A total of 487 students responded, which is equal to 3 1.3% o f the total number of surveys mailed.

The results of the t test and Levene’s Test indicated that African-American adult students perceived more of a barrier in completing a postsecondary education than White adult college students in two o f the three barrier areas. More specifically, these perceived barriers were the lack of financial aid/resources and low confidence in the ability to succeed in college because of poor grades in the past. Additionally, income, class attendance requirements and entrance requirements in a desired curriculum, and the concern about appearing too ambitious to others also were perceived barriers.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access