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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Kathy L. Rix
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research and Technology
Title: Differences by Degrees: Providing Services to Adult Students Based on Degree Level Pursued
Dr. Louann Bierlein-Palmer, Chair
Dr. Andrea Beach
Dr. Diane Anderson
Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 5:15 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
2145 Schneider Hall
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, which could be most important to adult students. The survey was administered to 2,021 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 then used to develop interview protocols specific to each degree level.
These results were analyzed and conclusions drawn, to develop six recommendations for improving the delivery of services to adult students based on their degree levels. These recommendations include: (a) creating an office focused on serving adult students; (b) establishing communication channels (email, web site, brochure, etc.) dedicated to adult students and their needs; (c) improving the accessibility and applicability of student services; and (d) providing more flexibility and focus in course offerings. It was discovered that the needs of adult students do differ based on their degree levels, but the amount of difference is inversely proportionate to the requirement level (by the university) of the service.
While these results can not be generalized for any institutions outside of the study university, I have provided a framework for other institutions to use in order to conduct their own research. It is important to acknowledge that the needs of the new traditional student are different than those of the historically traditional student, and that adult students do indeed experience needs that exhibit differences by degrees.