Date of Dissertation


Document Type



Social Work


The field of social work routinely attracts the non-traditional student. For the purposes of this dissertation, non-traditional students were identified as meeting two or more of the criteria established by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): "being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time, and being employed full time" (U.S. Department of Education, 2015, p. 1). Difficult life experiences including past trauma, addiction, abuse, and contact with the social service system lead non-traditional students to want to help those with like experiences through the profession, motivating their pursuit of higher education. Due to pursuing college later in life, non-traditional students face challenges that differ from their traditional counterparts such as household and financial responsibilities, caregiving roles and full time employment. These students must utilize various supports to meet those challenges. This dissertation explores the phenomenon of the non-traditional social work student and its impact on higher education.