Qi Feng

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Wilcox-Gök, Virginia Louise

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Economics


Adult college students--United States--Economic conditions


This dissertation examines the decision by adults to return to school after they have spent some time in the workforce. Studies of higher education enrollment have long focused on the enrollment behavior of students who enter college immediately following high school graduation. However, there is also a need to better understand the enrollment behavior of adults who decide to return to school after spending time in the workforce. This in turn may provide insights to policy-makers who are in a position to help lesseducated individuals get the education they deserve. Currently there is little work reported in the economics literature that attempts to study the decision by adults to return to school. This dissertation is intended to contribute to our understanding of the decisions made by adults to return to school. Using information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), the following primary questions are addressed: Does labor income, age, or tuition decrease the likelihood that an adult will return to school? Do expected gains from further education increase the likelihood that an adult will return to school? Do other factors such as family income, race and gender affect the likelihood that an adult will return to school? The findings of the empirical analyses indicate that if a less-educated adult belongs to a racial minority, is male, is relatively older, lives in a poor family, or earns lower-than-median income, then he/she is less likely to return to school. Among persons from poor families or earning low incomes, an increase in income would actually discourage investment in further education instead of making it more affordable for them to return to school. Those who return to school tend to have higher-paying jobs or belong to relatively richer families. Females are more likely to return to school the longer the time that has elapsed since their high school graduation, while minorities are more likely to enroll in college immediately after or within a relatively short period after graduation from high school.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [129]-134).


viii, 134 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type