Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Timothy E. Lafferty


Nontraditional undergraduate students have had a high attrition rate over the course of a 4-year program at a for-profit northeastern university. The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions and experiences of nontraditional undergraduate dropout students about the influence of academic difficulties, social life, and unresolved educational and occupational goals on leaving the university before graduating. The conceptual framework was guided by Tinto’s model of student persistence. The research questions focused on nontraditional undergraduate student perceptions and experiences of academic difficulties, social life, and unresolved goals. A basic qualitative study design was used to capture the insights of 10 nontraditional undergraduate students who left the university before graduating; a purposeful sampling process was used to select the participants. Emergent themes were identified through open coding, and the findings were developed and checked for trustworthiness through member checking and rich descriptions. The findings revealed that nontraditional undergraduate students need support, training, and guided practice with managing time, social connections, and goals. A professional development project was created to provide undergraduate instructors with strategies and approaches to improve learning conditions, academic performance, and retention of nontraditional undergraduate students. This study has implications for positive social change by creating a structure to provide undergraduate university instructors with strategies and approaches for improving support and instruction for nontraditional undergraduate students.