Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Richard Braley


Increased enrollments of nontraditional students in U.S. higher education institutions have prompted many college and university administrators to consider student service programs. These programs ensure that support services are available to nontraditional students to cultivate healthy graduation rates among that student population. The purpose of this study was to discover factors that influence nontraditional students to become disengaged or be retained. The study was a qualitative case study with data collected from individual interviews with 10 nontraditional students participating in online and traditional onsite delivery systems at a private, nontraditional higher education institution in the western United States. The theoretical framework that guided this study was Knowles's andragogy theory. The research questions addressed students' perceptions of the role of persistence, barriers, self-direction, intrinsic motivation, delivery systems, learning modality, and academic and support services in their academic success. Data analysis was conducted to identify themes by coding the narrative responses and using member checks to validate data interpretations. Findings derived from the interviews indicated that students believed that they benefitted from a community of support within the university system. A professional development workshop was designed as a project to train university employees on how to create a professional learning community (PLC) to support students. This PLC was designed to promote positive social change by enhancing retention of adult students in academic programs until graduation and create an environment where people work together in a collaborative way within the university to ensure student success.