Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Occupational and Technical Studies

Committee Director

John M. Ritz

Committee Member

Robert Lucking

Committee Member

Alice R. McAdory


Projections estimated that nontraditional student enrollment in post-secondary education would increase by 19% as compared to traditional student enrollments of 10% from 2006 through 2017. Adult students were less likely to complete a college degree compared to traditional students, and drop-outs cost taxpayers billions of dollars in lost taxes. Military spouses were a sub-group of nontraditional students with unique challenges and stressors due to their military lifestyle. Limited research-based literature existed on military spouses enrolled in post-secondary education. Financial incentives such as My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA) and the transferability of the Post-9/11 GI Bill enabled military spouses to participate in post-secondary education at unprecedented numbers. This research study sought to determine factors that motivated and enabled military spouses to earn a college degree. The research questions guiding this study included: (1) What factors motivated military spouses to earn a college degree? (2) What factors enabled military spouses to persist in earning a college degree? and (3) What factors needed to be known by colleges and universities to assist military spouses in earning a college degree?

Data for this study were collected using a survey that included closed-form Likert-scale questions, open-form questions, and demographic questions. Seven hundred fifty-two military spouse students completed the survey. Descriptive statistics and multiple regression analyses were used to address the research questions.

The findings of this study indicated that "personal fulfillment/satisfaction, college degree is a necessary career requirement, enjoy learning for the sake of learning, and the college/university accommodates 'my' developmental needs" were significant factors for military spouses' motivation to earn a college degree. The factor "support and encouragement from other people (family, friends, or co-workers)" was identified as the significant persistence factor for military spouses earning a college degree. These five factors were further explained as the factors that colleges and universities needed to know to assist military spouses in earning a college degree. Colleges and universities with military spouse populations should consider evaluating their programs and services to examine if they support adult developmental needs and use the findings from this study to enhance recruiting and retention strategies for military spouses.