Military Students' Persistence in Earning an Online College Degree
Author(s)Williams, Aysel Renay
KeywordsAdult and Continuing Education Administration
Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching
Higher Education Administration
Higher Education and Teaching
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AbstractThe purpose of this basic qualitative study was to gain insight into the factors that military students perceive to have an impact on their persistence. The conceptual framework for this study was Knowles' principles of andragogy. The research questions were designed to explore military students' persistence, measures of engagement in academic activities, decisionmaking to assure success, and the strategies considered important to earn a degree at an online college. Demographic surveys, status reports and degree plans, and semistructured telephone interviews were collected from 13 military students. Interview data were transcribed and all data were open coded and thematically analyzed. Military students experienced longer than desirable time to degree while they managed institutional factors (policies and procedures), situational factors (school, work, and family obligations), and dispositional factors (age and past experiences). Specifically, military students indicated that the following factors contributed to their academic success: (a) military-friendly policies and procedures; (b) balance between school, work, and family; (c) and maturity gained from real-world experiences. They purposefully planned to persist, successfully addressed complex situations, and looked to experts in academia to ensure that those who could impact their progress were keenly aware of military students' diverse needs. Findings were incorporated into a white paper to inform academic leaders on how best to assist military students in completing their online degree programs. Implications for social change are that military students will be better prepared for more career opportunities and help mitigate the financial difficulties and high unemployment rates that disproportionately impact veterans.