Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Name

Educational Leadership

Department or School/College

School of Education

Committee Chair

William P. McCaw

Commitee Members

Royce C. Engstrom, Roberta D. Evans, John Matt, Frances L. O'Reilly


adult student, community college, institutional barriers, Montana, non-traditional student, two-year college


University of Montana


This non-experimental, quantitative study examined the extent selected state sociopolitical factors relate to adult participation in public two-year colleges, and assessed how Montana compares to those states enrolling the most adult students. Utilizing archived data from the National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey, and the National Association of State Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) annual survey, a cross-sectional sampling for the United States from 2003, 2005, and 2007 was analyzed to examine how eight sociopolitical factors (independent variables) influenced adult participation (dependent variable) in public two-year colleges. Sociopolitical factors included: the institutional density of two-year colleges; the percent of public two-year colleges; the number of public two-year colleges with open admissions policies; the number of public two-year colleges that provide distance learning; the number of public two-year colleges that provide the opportunity to earn credit for prior experience; the economic incentive of a two-year degree; two-year college affordability; and the availability of state funded need-based financial aid.

Two forms of regression analyses were employed; standard multiple regression, and stepwise multiple regression. Standard multiple regression was used to identify the individual predictive influence each sociopolitical factor had on adult participation. Stepwise multiple regression was used to assess which combination of sociopolitical factors had the greatest ability to predict adult participation. Both analyses found the percent of two-year colleges, two-year college affordability, the availability of need-based aid, and the prevalence of distance learning to be the factors most influential in predicting the variation in the adult participation rate. In concert, the stepwise analyses found these factors to have twice the influence on adult participation than when each factor was considered individually. Descriptive statistics for these variables were examined to compare Montana to those states enrolling the most adult students. Montana compared well in the percent of two-year colleges, but falls below the high participation states on the other three factors. Implications of these findings on state and national policy are discussed.



© Copyright 2010 Joe Schaffer