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Academic Persistence: What Matters to the Single Mother?

Kristina Testa-Buzzee, Johnson & Wales University


Single mothers increasingly seek college degrees at community colleges in order to provide economic security for their families (Wei et al., 2009); however, they often face a number of barriers that prevent or disrupt their education (Cox & Ebbers, 2010; Smith, 2010). Campus services help students persist to degree completion, yet serving the population of single mothers can be particularly challenging for practitioners when confronted with students' numerous internal and external influences (Austin & McDermott, 2003). Single parents who do persist have an important story to share with practitioners and policy makers in higher education. This quantitative study explored the perceptions of the experience of Mattering as a motivator for persistence among single mothers in higher education. Mattering is defined as "a personal belief, whether right or wrong, that we matter to someone else and this belief acts as a motivator" (Schlossberg, 1989, p. 3). This study explored Mattering by investigating the following research questions: 1. To what extent and in what manner can academic persistence be explained by the student's perception of Mattering? 2. What is the relationship between self-perceptions of Mattering and selected demographics? This research utilized a quantitative correlational design (Creswell, 2009). Participants (N = 53) included single mothers enrolled in a program at two community college sites (N = 2). An adaptation of The Mattering Scales for Adult Learners in Higher Education was used to measure the participant's self-perception of Mattering to their institution (Schlossberg, Lasalle, & Golec, 1990). Results indicated high alpha reliability for the data, but no significant relationships between a single mother's academic persistence and their perception of Mattering to the college emerged. Furthermore, while students' demographics indicated a range in diversity, their perception of Mattering to the college remained consistent. This research may inform community college practitioners regarding ways to help single mothers stay motivated in their quest for degree completion, which will ultimately influence a new generation of college students. The results may be significant in shaping policy, support services for similar programs, and contribute to the economic futures of single mother households.

Subject Area

Community college education|Higher Education Administration

Recommended Citation

Testa-Buzzee, Kristina, "Academic Persistence: What Matters to the Single Mother?" (2014). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3621996.