The Adult Student Attrition Decision Process (ASADP) model
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Student attrition in higher education has remained a much studied but little understood phenomena that is costly both to education providers and students. According to the Digest of Educational Statistics (1999) the number of adult students (those over the age 24) attending colleges grew almost 6 times faster than the number of traditionally aged students in the last decade and now represent over 40 percent of all students enrolled in institutions of higher education. Many writers (e.g. Metzner & Bean, 1987 and Tinto, 1993) have noted that attrition rates for nontraditional students are higher than their traditional counterparts. This study identified the factors that influence adult student attrition and how those factors interrelate in an adult student’s attrition decision. The datum for this study was gathered from 3 focus groups comprised of adult students enrolled in undergraduate degree completion programs and 6 individual students also enrolled in the programs. Interactive Qualitative Analysis (IQA) methodology as developed by Northcutt (1997) and his associate Miles (1997) was used to generate, organize, and analyze the data generated by the focus groups. The study found Experiences with the School, Financial Concerns, and Unexpected Crises to be the primary drivers (or causes) that could initiate a chain of events that may ultimately lead to an adult student’s decision to drop out of school. The study also found that the principal dilemma confronting adult students is the ability to manage time, especially in regards to the struggle to juggle the competing demands of work, school, and family. This struggle to juggle causes students to feel stressed and apprehensive and/or to reevaluate the costs and benefits of continuing their educational pursuit. If the student can not bear the stress, or determines that the costs associated with continuing as a student outweigh the benefits, the student may decide to not persist to graduation. The results of the study also imply that since the relationship between the costs and the benefits of persisting changes as a student proceeds through their educational course, the nature of the decision to withdraw may also change.