Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. Higher Education


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Raquel Wright-Mair, PhD

Committee Member 1

Dianna Dale, PhD

Committee Member 2

Tyrone McCombs, PhD


Adult students, Non-traditional students, Parents, Student-Parents


College student parents


Higher Education


The literature addressing non-traditional students in higher education is broadening, nevertheless, the experiences of non-traditional, adult students who are raising children (i.e., student-parents) in academia continue to be inadequately explored. The purpose of this phenomenological study is to explore the lived experiences of student-parents pursuing a college degree while raising children. The use of a qualitative approach in this research study presented the opportunity to gather rich data to help explain the phenomenon (Creswell, 2007, Denzin & Lincoln, 2013). Specifically applying a hermeneutic phenomenological research design allowed adult non-traditional student-parents to explain their college experience in their own words through one-on-one interviews. This study adds to the limited current literature on lived experiences of student-parents in pursuit of degree attainment. Sixteen student-parents enrolled in a degree-granting program at a suburban, Division III, a predominantly White institution in New Jersey participated in this study. Their experiences of the research participants from a meaningful, first-person perspective was a key element of this research. Findings from this study generated four emergent themes. The study also suggests that student-parents, while increasing in numbers, often are a hidden sub-set of non-traditional students who have unique challenges and require varying support.