Adults in higher education: Motives, antecedents and consequences, and coping strategies



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Some 40 percent of all college students are twenty-five years of age and older. As colleges and universities are faced witii decUning enroUments and a shrinking pool of traditional students, information about nontraditional students wUl be needed to serve tiie interests of the students and meet the institutions' needs to serve an increasingly diverse marketplace of students. Many aspects of the nontraditional student population have been examined, but the integration of several key elements in research has been lacking. Motivational research has shown that nontraditional students return to school for many different reasons including a need for personal growth or as a coping strategy for a perceived deficiency. Significant or transitional life events frequentiy appear in the lives of nontraditional students, but relationships between students' evaluation of those events and their expressed motives for participation in education have not been examined. This study examined relationships between students' evaluations of life experiences prior to entering school and their reported motives for participating in education, their evaluation of consequences following enrollment, and coping strategies used in dealing with student role related conflicts. In addition, personal preferences of students were assessed to determine relationships between self-reported motives for participating in education and consistent traits expressed by individuals. The Life Experiences Survey (LES), Education Participation Scale (EPS), Revised Ways of Coping CheckUst (RWCC), the Personal Preferences Questionnaire (PPQ), a Consequences/Satisfaction Scale and background data questionnaire were administered to nontraditional (n=131) and traditional (n=339) students who volunteered to participate in this study. A Pearson r correlational statistic was employed to examine relationships between students' motives and their expressed personal preferences, and students' evaluation of antecedents and the following variables: motives for participating in education, consequences of enroUment, and use of coping strategies. Multivariate analysis of variance was performed to determine differences among groups reporting negative, neutral or positive evaluation of antecedents in tiieir stated motives, consequences, coping strategies or personal preferences. Additional analysis of variance was conducted to evaluate gender and age effects on students' evaluation of satisfaction in different areas of Ufe prior to and following enrollment in college. Traditional and nontraditional students differed in tiie relationships between evaluation of antecedents and endorsement of motives and personal preferences. Nontraditional students' motives for participating in education had no significant relationship to evaluation of antecedents, but endorsement of the specific personal preference AffiUation was affected by negative, neutral or positive evaluation of life experiences. For traditional students, significant positive relationships were found between evaluation of life experiences and endorsement of the Escape, Social Welfare, and Professional Advancement motives. Having a negative, neutral or positive perspective was a more or less stable trait that reappeared in students' evaluation of antecedents and consequences, endorsement of motives, coping strategies and personal preferences. Personal preferences emerged as a more important variable in relation to motives than did demographic variables or evaluation of antecedents. Some gender differences were found in endorsement of specific motives, evaluation of consequences, coping strategies and personal preferences. Suggestions for future research are discussed.