Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer


This study examined the perception of adult students pursuing different degree levels (bachelor, master, doctoral) to determine if there are differences in their needs for support services. A two-part, mixed methods design was used, consisting of an online survey and follow-up interviews with a small subset (13) of the survey respondents.

A survey instrument was developed with 44 dependent variables covering services, as determined from the literature, that could be most important to adult students. The online survey was distributed to 2,029 adult students at a Midwestern, doctoral, research intensive university. Criteria for selection as part of the population required the student to be at least 30 years of age at the time of his/her latest admittance to a program, and be enrolled for classes at the study institution during the spring semester of 2007. The survey was available online for three weeks and resulted in a 30% response rate producing 611 usable responses. The results of the survey were used to develop interview protocols specific to each degree level.

These results were analyzed and conclusions drawn, to develop five recommendations for improving the delivery of services to adult students based on their degree levels. These recommendations include: (a) creating a centralized office (probably virtual) focused on serving adult students and their needs that include email and a web site, (b) developing an informational brochure, (c) improving the accessibility and applicability of student services (especially parking), (d) providing more flexibility and focus in course offerings, and (e) reassessing the services for adult students every 2-3 years. It was discovered that needs of adult students do differ based on their degree levels, but the amount of difference is inversely proportionate to the necessity of the service in conducting the business of going to college.

While these results cannot be generalized to any other institutions, they provide a framework for those institutions to use in conducting their own research. It is important to acknowledge that the needs of the new traditional student are different than those of the conventional student, and that adult students do experience needs that exhibit differences by degrees.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access