Date of Award

August 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Simone C.O. Conceição

Committee Members

Cheryl Baldwin, Christopher Lawson, Liliana Mina


Academic Support, Adult Students, Higher Education, Persistence, Retention, Tutoring


This qualitative study examined adult student perceptions of academic support services at an urban-service research university in the Midwest. While adult students often return to school to start or finish their degrees, the six-year graduation rate for students who enter college over the age of 20 is 12% less than those who enroll in college before the age of 20. Adults face situational, institutional, and dispositional barriers to graduation. This qualitative research study examined the perceptions of tutoring as an academic support tool of 13 adult students. Using Cultural Historical Activity as a theoretical framework, three major themes emerged from the study: (a) adult students’ perception of tutoring in their academic success including their perception of tutoring as a lifeline for their success, (b) adult students’ perceptions of community support which included communities both inside and outside of the university, and (c) the student’s role in their academic success where study participants began to take control over their own learning paths. A discussion about the study’s purpose, review of pertinent literature, data collection, and analysis process. The study concludes with an examination of the findings including academic resources, tools used by the tutor, the role of the community, and learner autonomy; offers implications for academic support professionals and university administrators, and proposes future research.