Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Robert H. Stupnisky


Despite the increase in their college enrollment, nontraditional students in U.S. postsecondary institutions are less likely to stay in college until they earn their degree. What could explain nontraditional student high attrition rates and overall success beyond what their demographic characteristics reveal? The purpose of this study was to examine the role of achievement motivation in predicting nontraditional student college success using the expectancy-value theory (Eccles et al., 1983) and achievement goals theory (Dweck, 1986; Maehr, 1989; Nicholls, 1984). A Model of Nontraditional College Student Motivation and Success was tested using a sample of undergraduate students enrolled in various majors at a High Research Activity University. The model comprised of nontraditional student status, balance self-efficacy, subjective task value, and achievement goals as the independent variables. Success expectancies, intent to persist, and well-being perceptions were the dependent variables. A 77-item online survey was administered one month into the fall semester and was completed by 377 students. The survey data were analyzed using quantitative statistical methods including t-tests, correlations, and multiple regressions. Findings demonstrated that although nontraditional students exhibited higher odds of failure in college than traditional students, their motivation factors were more robust predictors of their college outcomes. Balance self-efficacy, performance-approach goals, mastery-approach goals, and utility value were positive predictors of nontraditional student success outcomes. These results have theoretical implications for further research on nontraditional student motivation and success, as well as practical implications for educators and practitioners who are looking for ways to enhance these students' success in college.