My area of interest is Full-time adult undergraduates, because there is the distinct relationship between the growth and certainly the increased unemployment figures. In addition to the loss of a job and the possible need for additional education to obtain new skills, other factors such as the decision to join the job market and the need to develop new skills, early retirement and the decision to embark on another career, a change in life situations which results in a career decision and the corresponding need for additional education and increased acceptability for adults, particularly women, to return to school (Baumgartner, 2005) are present.
The growing body of literature dealing with adult developmental stages or phases and adult transitions also serve as background for the study. However this literature area’s theories are generally inadequate as a base from which to view adult full-time learners. As an unexpected, untypical adult experience, full-time study usually cannot be placed on chronological continua or fit into other categories of adult development .This study calls attention to the differences between full-time and part-time adult learners. The experience of the person taking one course one night a week is contrasted with that of the individual enrolled in a full-time “day” program within a setting of primarily traditional-aged students.
Adult student persistence will benefit from universities that consider their administrative, academic, and financial interactions. Schlossberg (1989) wrote that institutions that focus on mattering and greater student involvement will be more successful in creating campuses where students are motivated to learn, where their retention is high, and ultimately, where their institutional loyalty for the short- and long-term is ensured.
Currently, some of the places in college campuses formerly occupied by the 18-22-year old students have been filled by a growing number of adult students who are on seeking undergraduate degrees (Baumgartner, 2005); she observed that part-time students form the larger part of this group. In fact the full-time adult students’ population is still quite small, mostly in colleges and universities. Despite the fact that universities are aware of the presence of mature adults in their full-time study programs, the amount of adults interested willing and available for full-time study program is still little.
The study aim was to become conversant with adult full-time students, their state of affairs, experiences, and the character of their social world. The study was on selected adult undergraduates who are enrolled full time at Arcade College during the academic year of 2012-2013.
Adult learners are returning to higher education to pursue their higher education aspirations in increasing numbers (Pusser et al., 2007). To accommodate and increase the persistence to graduation of this growing group of nontraditional learners, institutions of higher learning need to evaluate their approaches to support and invest in structured, systematic approaches to supporting this significant body of students (Engstrom & Tinto, 2008). The degree to which students believe they matter to someone else and that others care about them and appreciate them is referred to as “Mattering” (Schlossberg et al., 1989). The literature has shown that incrementally adjusting the delivery and accessibility of services to improve the perception of mattering for adult services may positively affect retention and persistence to graduation.
According to information from most literature reports colleges and universities are yet to really come to terms with these older learners. Some institutions though have incorporated special counseling and orientation programs and have offered diverse course programs and formats, other imperative areas have not been catered for. In general colleges have persistently treated the occasional full-time adults in the same way the traditional-aged students are treated. Forecasts are that the quantity of adults beginning or returning to college will continue to raise (Baumgartner, 2005). The governmental and educational planners have been taking into consideration the impact of these adults on post-secondary education.
Research Design and Procedures
The goal was to study full-time undergraduates 25 years of age or older with respect to their social world and the factors which affect the nature of their interactions. A sample of 30 students was obtained by placing an advert in the school newspaper describing the research and requesting people to participate. The qualitative study of the social world of full-time adult undergraduates used semi-structured interviews as the primary research approach. The interviewing process begun with unstructured questions. The interviews were informal and open-ended, and were carried out in a conversational style.
Up to 30 tape-recorded interviews and necessary follow-up interview were conducted during that academic year. Field notes in conjunction with the interviews, follow-up interviews, observations, and casual encounters with subjects were put down. Memoranda were also written while listening to taped interviews, typing transcripts, and reflected upon a particular interview. Other data throughout the study, such as comments from administrative and teaching colleagues, papers or other materials subjects were used for data collection. On completion of gathering data analysis was done and hence obtained a beginning understanding of the findings.
Data analysis took place throughout the study. All of the taped interviews, memoranda, and field notes were entered into computer files. Ethnographer, a software program that uses a coding system organized around different topics and themes found in these files was used. A scheme of numbers and letters was used to designate major categories and subcategories. Connections between categories and themes were used to further my understanding of the adult full-time student’s world and to shape the organization of the data for portrayal in my final document.
The study showed that adult education program has tended to focus on the part-time adult learner as “typical,” and thereby has largely excluded or ignored the full-time student. Most adult learners reported that they felt uncomfortable in the campus community, colleges and asked themselves what role and responsibility they have and if there are ways they could influence the nature of the “fit.”
For many adult learners, the pursuit of their educational aspirations is just one of several activities that compete for their time. Families, jobs, hobbies, friends and other obligations place burdens on the time and resources of adult learners and often create conflicting demands. Even with the realization that a higher education degree is frequently a good investment, many adult learners can lose sight of this goal.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Studies have shown that students who feel they are cared about and connected to a campus have higher retention (Astin, 1993). If the student perceives a sense of connection or significance, this student will have a higher rank in mattering. If the perceptions are those of disconnection or insignificance, the sense of marginality exists (Schlossberg, 1989). The lack of accessible student services may unfortunately send the message to typical adult students that their support needs are not as important or that they do not matter. Although the focus of this study is not on retention, a summary of Tinto’s (1975) principles of effective retention provides a framework for understanding the role institutions play in helping students succeed.
Universities have the opportunity and the duty to consider its adult learners’ perception of mattering. Reflecting on these perceptions and conducting a review of the services that affect the adult learners’ perception of mattering will position universities to adjust delivery and accessibility of critical support services.
• Astin, A. (1993). What matters most in college: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Baumgartner, L. (2005). Adult Development, Four Adult Development Theories and Their Implications for Practice.
• Engstrom, C., & Tinto, V. (2008). Access without support is not opportunity. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 40(1), 46. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ782160).
• Pusser, B., Breneman D., Gansneder, B., Kohl, K., Levin, J., Milam, J., Turner, S., (2007). Returning to learning: Adults’ success in college is key to America’s future. New Agenda Series. Indianapolis, IN: Lumina Foundation for Education
• Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. In D. Roberts (Ed.), Designing campus activities to foster a sense of community. New Directions for Student Services, 48, 5-15. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Schlossberg, N., Lynch, A., & Chickering, A. (1989). Improving higher education environments for adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
• Tinto, V. (1975). Limits of theory and practice in student attrition. Journal of Higher Education, 53, 687-700.