Today, the Hispanic population is the fastest growing minority in the United States. As a minority-majority Hispanic state, it is imperative that New Mexico addresses the needs of this population, particularly education, as it creates opportunities for growth. Historically, the Hispanic population experienced limited access to education, which impacted their access to income and occupation, making them expendable.
Throughout history, women have faced inequality. In the United States, women had to overcome several obstacles to have access to education and be allowed to enroll in post-secondary education (Hagedorn, Womack, Vogt, Westebbe, & Kealing, 2002). It must be noted that the first women to have access to education were White women from middle or upper-class backgrounds (Rury, 2009), not minorities, not Hispanic women.
The needs of non-traditional students differ from traditional students’ needs, such as family and work obligations. In addition, non-traditional women students face the challenge of returning or starting their post-secondary education in institutions that are designed to meet the needs of traditional students and not the needs of working adults who play different roles and who are pursuing a post-secondary education. Non-traditional students enter post-secondary education with different levels of preparedness, life experiences, and responsibilities (Plageman & Sabina, 2010; Scobey, 2016). Unfortunately, in post-secondary education, non-traditional students demonstrate lower persistence rates than traditional students (Scobey, 2016; Stawinoga, 2017). This can be attributed to part-time enrollment and time constraints (Jacobs & Berkowitz King, 2002).
The purpose of this study was to understand factors that impact persistence to degree attainment of non-traditional Hispanic women students. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach illuminated understanding of the shared experiences of the nine non-traditional Hispanic women students who participated in this study.
The women expressed dealing with challenges related to family expectations ascribed by their Hispanic culture, social roles, and finances. For some, learning and dealing with new and established technology was seen as a challenge. For two of the participants, the English language represented a challenge. Receiving emotional support from family and friends and perceiving that faculty and staff demonstrate a sense of care help the women stay on the path to degree attainment. Feelings of self-assurance, expressing confidence in their abilities, and having goals for themselves also help the women stay on the path to degree attainment.
Recommendations are made to better respond to the needs of non-traditional students. Some of the recommendations include assessing student population composition, evaluating practices, goals, and objectives, evaluation of core curriculum, creating support programs, and assessing state policies related to higher education.
Non-traditional, Hispanic, women, undergraduate, Hispanic Serving Institution
Level of Degree
Teacher Education, Educational Leadership & Policy
First Committee Member (Chair)
Dr. Allison M. Borden
Second Committee Member
Dr. Arlie Woodrum
Third Committee Member
Dr. Viola Florez
Fourth Committee Member
Dr. Thomas Ward
Zollner, Melanie C.. "Non-Traditional Hispanic Women Students in Post-Secondary Education." (2019). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/educ_teelp_etds/290