Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

Heather Schugar, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Jason Wozniak, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Lauri Hyers, Ph. D.


This qualitative study focuses on the experiences of adult learner single mothers in college. Specifically, this research sought to understand how student loan debt informs their ability to persist and their well-being. In addition, the study examined the supports single mothers in college receive and the support they need to persist to degree attainment. Using a narrative inquiry design, semi structured interviews were conducted with 2 participants from a mid-sized public university in the northeast of the United States. Participants recounted their experiences throughout their undergraduate and graduate education. Participants spoke of the difficulties faced while enrolled in classes and raising children. They discussed feelings of guilt caused by time spent away from their children attending classes and completing coursework. Additionally, they spoke of difficulty accessing budget conscious childcare and the lack of support from institutions. Participants discussed the need for student loans to persist in their studies and the benefits they anticipate receiving upon graduation, however, participants also reported feelings of stress and anxiety when thinking about paying student loans after graduation. Participants described support received from immediate and extended family members including childcare, financial and emotional support. In addition, participants described the desire for additional support needed to assist them in persisting to graduation. Therefore, it would benefit institutions to consider innovative programs and supports to assist single mothers in college which could lead to better retention rates for this population.