Unmet Needs: Challenges to Success from the Perspectives of Mature University Students


  • Tricia Marie van Rhijn University of Guelph
  • Donna S. Lero University of Guelph
  • Katelyn Bridge Queen's University
  • Victoria A. Fritz University of Guelph


mature students, non-traditional students, barriers, multiple roles, attrition, persistence


An in-depth understanding of mature students’ experiences as non-traditional learners pursuing post-secondary education is crucial to supporting this growing and traditionally overlooked population. This study explored issues affecting the success of mature students engaged in university study. A thematic analysis of text responses from 270 mature undergraduate students in Ontario was conducted to discover unmet needs and challenges to success. Findings demonstrate that mature students struggle with accessing needed resources, supports, services, and flexible study options. Furthermore, mature students face significant challenges with balancing their multiple roles and responsibilities and experience social exclusion as non-traditional students, feeling that they are not understood by their peers or institutions. Recommendations are made to better support mature students in three areas: changes to institutional policies and practices, the creation of social support networks, and increased access to financial support.

Author Biographies

Tricia Marie van Rhijn, University of Guelph

Assistant Professor, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition

Donna S. Lero, University of Guelph

Professor, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition

Katelyn Bridge, Queen's University

M.Sc. Student, School of Rehabilitation Therapy

Victoria A. Fritz, University of Guelph

M.Sc. Student, Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition


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How to Cite

van Rhijn, T. M., Lero, D. S., Bridge, K., & Fritz, V. A. (2015). Unmet Needs: Challenges to Success from the Perspectives of Mature University Students. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 28(1), 29–47. Retrieved from https://cjsae.library.dal.ca/index.php/cjsae/article/view/4704