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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Adult students in university : long-term persistence to degree-completion McLaren, Jack


Long-term persistence to degree completion by adult university students represents a different focus from most adult education participation research and higher education dropout research. Much of the research on adults in university has treated these adults as a new (non-traditional) group, despite evidence that many had been enrolled as traditional-age students. Samples limited to first-year students, part-time students, and students in special programs provide only a limited perspective on the whole population of adults in university. It was hypothesized that adults who had been in university as traditional-age students and returned later (Re-entry studenty) would be more persistent to degree completion than adults who had enrolled for the first time at age twenty-five or older (Adult Entry students). While the hypothesis was not clearly supported, differences between the two groups were discovered. Six hypotheses were generated from the literature on adult participation and on higher education dropouts. These were tested using bivariate analysis. The multivariate techniques of multiple regression and discriminant analysis were employed to examine differences between Re-entry students and Adult Entry students in persistence to degree completion. The most important variable affecting Re-entry-students' persistence was Grade Point Average; the most potent variable with Adult Entry students was work-related problems. With both groups, persistence was affected by satisfaction. Early-career mobility had an ambiguous effect; downward mobility in early career was associated with persistence by Adult Entry students; upward mobility correlated with persistence by Re-entry students. A new typology of adult student in higher education is suggested. First-time students—new students who have never previously been enrolled—are a high-risk group (prone to dropout), but those who persist initially may become more persistent than Re-entry students.

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