Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type

Capstone - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)



First Advisor

Susan Marine


Community colleges have been the long-standing institution type for students seeking a post-secondary education because of their relatively low cost and open access philosophies. Particularly, adult or non-traditional women learners have chosen the community college route over the past few decades (Cohen & Brawer, 2008). Motivations to enroll, persist and graduate, vary, depending on factors internal and external to the college and are often dissimilar to their traditional aged counterparts. Given this difference and increasing enrollment numbers, understanding the lived experiences of adult women learners is critical for individual institutions and the larger higher education community. This exploratory study sought to understand how adult women learners at a community college perceived their persistence, the role of the institution, and thoughts on career-related services. It also sought their suggested improvements to the community college environment in order to meet their needs. Eleven students participated in the interviews to gather data. Participants described a lack of communication between campus offices, misinformation from academic advising services and creating a family-student and often work balance as barriers to their persistence. In contrast, support from faculty, family, friends and classmates were integral to persistence through their degree programs. Personal motivation and dedication were also highly important to their college perseverance. In relation to career services, almost all of the participants had not used the support and found little relevance to their experiences. Overall, the women in this study demonstrated a love of learning, dedication to their goals, growth in personal confidence and a deep interest in inspiring others. Recommendations include creating space within the community college website, physical space, orientation and culture for adult learners. Additional recommendations are the creation of an affinity group, initiatives to increase cross-campus communication and strengthening academic advising.