Mary E. Miles

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher

Committee Member

David Anderson

Committee Member

Devika Dibya Choudhuri

Committee Member

Jaclynn Tracy


This qualitative study explores the experiences of ten nontraditional women who reenter a community college after a prolonged departure. Experiences are examined through the lens of Tinto’s Theory of Institutional Departure, as well as Deci and Ryan’s Self Determination Theory. While there is strong desire for educational attainment, early college experiences lack the focus of a defined educational goal and institutional knowledge about basic services. Return to community college results not only from changes in the life course, but a strong commitment to the goal attainment of a college degree. Current college experiences are positive with regard to both academic and social integration; however, they occur in a concurrent manner. Academic and social integration are enhanced by academic competency and belonging to the educational community, and increasing autonomy as they progress toward their educational goal. Integral to persistence is high use of educational resources and an increased sense of institutional agency over time. Challenges to persistence include a continued lack of financial resources, significant health issues, and balancing work, school, and home life.

Included in

Counseling Commons