Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Paul Meacham

Number of Pages



Nontraditional aged undergraduates, those aged 25 or older, now comprise nearly 40% of the higher education population, and are more heavily represented on some campuses, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (2002). This demographic shift has not been reflected in current research, with most higher education studies focused on the traditional aged 18 to 24 college cohort. The older undergraduate population is included in some studies for comparative purposes, or they are subject of limited, outcome centered, studies. This study takes an in-depth approach to this population, focusing on the educational decision-making process and several aspects of satisfaction qualitative methodology, this exploratory study utilized focus groups as the primary means of data collection method to investigate three key higher education decision points, and decision, as well as, outcome satisfaction. Twenty-seven volunteer subjects, recruited from two areas of study at a large community college in the western United States, participated in the study. Five research questions, centered on decision-making and satisfaction, were formatted into 10 discussion questions and tested using a preliminary study of four individual interviews. The finalized questions were then utilized in conducting four focus group sessions, two each with participants from Business and Health Sciences areas of study. Sessions were audio taped and transcribed to permit coding and analysis; Detailed analysis resulted in identification of data categories in each of the areas of investigation and development of 15 themes. Emergent themes were identified for each of the decision points and both outcome and decision satisfaction areas. An interview with a senior student services administrator at the host institution provided feedback on the identified categories and themes. Additionally, this interview provided insight into institution specific policies and services directed to nontraditional students, valuable in framing and interpreting the study results. The preliminary study, focus groups and administrator interview comprised the triangulation of data sources suggested for qualitative research (Gay, 1996). The developed themes, and a further consideration of results data, enabled the reaching of some conclusions regarding the decision-making and satisfaction of this particular study population, and recommendations for both practice and further research.


Decisions; Decision-making; Education; Higher; Higher Education; Nontraditional; Nontraditional Students; Qualitative; Satisfaction; Study; Undergraduates

Controlled Subject

Education, Higher

File Format


File Size

3112.96 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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