Date of Conferral





Human Services


Elaine Spaulding


There has been an increase in the number of first-generation adult learners in higher education institutions. However, literature has revealed limited information on the experiences of first-generation adult learners and their perception of the barriers they face in higher education. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the experiences of 6 first-generation adult learners attending a higher education institution and their perception of the barriers they faced. The theoretical foundations were andragogy theory and social-cognitive career theory. Data were collected using purposeful interviews and data were analyzed using iinterpretative pphenomenological aanalysis. Five detailed patterns were identified: (a) students experienced specific barriers associated with anxiety and fear; (b) students were able to adapt to change and overcome their barriers; (c) students viewed education as a way out of their present situation and welcomed it as a positive influence; (d) students viewed the barriers as normal life challenges; and (e) the availability of supportive services made a difference in the adult learning environment. Findings from this research will contribute to the knowledge and experiences of first-generation adult learners in higher education institutions and the unique barriers they face. In addition to the development of effective programs designed for first-generation adult learners, administrators, staff, and faculty in higher education institutions can use the data generated from this study to improve overall retention/graduation rates for underserved populations in higher education by identifying any obstacles to success and implementing intervention policies.