Date of Conferral

2014

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Dr. Rachel Moore

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to understand how a sense of belonging contributes to graduation persistence among nontraditional Hispanic college students. The collectivist culture among these adult learners often results in family and work obligations that curtail their pursuit of higher education. The voices of these students are mostly absent in the current literature and warrant the current research study. Sense of belonging and retention theory formed the conceptual framework for this phenomenological study. A purposeful sample of 16 nontraditional Hispanic students enrolled in a 2-year community college in Southwest Texas participated in interviews. Data analysis focused on themes from the participants' responses to a series of open-ended questions. Four themes emerged: financial difficulties, college schedules, flexibility in work-school schedule, and family obligations. From the perspectives of these students, their basic needs did not differ from the needs of the traditional college students enrolled in 2-year community college; however, they perceived their access to the college's resources and services seemed to be greater than that of traditional students. These findings suggest that, in order to support nontraditional Hispanic students, institutions must provide access to support services beyond the business-hour model.