Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Paulsen, Michael B

Second Advisor

Schmidt, Renita R

First Committee Member

Pascarella, Ernest

Second Committee Member

Ochola, Evans

Third Committee Member

Mobily, Kenneth


The purpose of this dissertation study was to describe how students who provide care for a person with a disability or chronic illness cope with the demands of both roles. The way students cope with stress has a direct impact on overall health, which has an impact on learning, development, and retention. Student caregivers are considered nontraditional students; nontraditional students are more likely to drop out of higher education because of obstacles in their non-academic life. Historically, student affairs professionals have developed programs and services to meet the challenges of underrepresented students in higher education. More than half of family caregivers are between the ages of 18-49, due to the aging population. The number of student caregivers enrolled in higher education will continue to increase and they are not adequately represented in student affairs literature. Data for this qualitative study was collected through a combination of individual interviews and a focus group to understand: who student caregivers were caring for, how they coped with their dual roles, and how the institution they attended supported them. While each student caregiving experience is unique, the fundamentals of student caregiving are consistent; student caregivers must often choose between completing academic tasks and caring for a human being. The participants represented a variety of disciplines, which highlights the need for student affairs professionals, faculty, and administrators across the academy to understand the specific challenges they face.


Caregivers, Disability in Higher Education, Health, Higher Education & Student Affairs, Nontraditional Students, Recreational Therapy


xi, 263 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 230-248).


Copyright © 2017 Lisa Polakowski Schumacher