This dissertation analyzes the motivations, perspectives, and barriers of adult learners returning to school to receive a high school diploma after previously dropping out of a traditional high school setting. Specifically, this study explored the backgrounds, discrimination factors, income variables, perspectives, and environmental and emotional influences of African American and Latino adult high school dropouts. The researcher identified adult students with aspirations of higher education, some of whom lacked the requisite knowledge about and guidance regarding the process of entering college or higher education. The U.S. high school dropout rate has increased dramatically in recent years, especially among African-American and Latino students. Nearly 6.2 million students in the United States between the ages of 16 and 24 dropped out of high school in recent years. Seventy percent of all students in California graduate from high school with a diploma in 4 years, whereas 30% of California high school students are considered non-graduates or dropouts. Little to no research has been done to identify the reasons or motivations for adult students returning to school to receive their high school diploma. Most research regarding adult students is related to the GED or community colleges. Completing a high school education is essential in order to access higher education and training for the labor force (Sum, Khatiwada, & McLaughlin, 2009). Moreover, minority students have inundated community adult schools and community colleges at a remarkable rate. These students are now adults that are confronted with issues of having to return to school while working full time jobs, taking care of children, dealing with ill or absent parents, and taking a high school exit exam that may not have existed during their original time in high school. Many statistical studies have been conducted on the percentages of the dropout rates among minorities, but very few studies have researched this specific adult target group. This sequential mixed methods approach used surveys and in-depth interviews to analyze data, providing information and suggestions for adult school administrators striving to close the graduation gap among these subgroups.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration and policy; Motivation in adult education; Minorities -- Education (Secondary); High school dropouts

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Barner, Robert R.;