Spousal support of students attending graduate school

Sylvan True DeVille Pigg

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate how the graduate students at a university in southern Mississippi were affected by the support of a spouse during the pursuit of an advanced degree. Five sub-questions guided the study: (1) To what degree did the student consult with the spouse to make the decision to enter or re-enter graduate school? (2) To what degree did the married graduate student feel that support from a spouse was essential to remain in school? (3) What obstacles that may affect the married student's educational progress are perceived to be of greatest concern? (4) How do married graduate students rate their perceptions of spousal support? and (5) How do married adult graduate students rate their spouses' perception of support? There were 142 graduate students enrolled in graduate classes during the fall semester of 2002 who responded to a questionnaire designed by the researcher to assess spousal support perceptions. Thirty students participated in oral interviews consisting of four questions. Results of the study revealed that the spouse of the student was the primary source for encouragement to pursue higher education, and the spouses provided a moderately high degree (8.2 on a 10 point scale) of support by helping with family obligations and household responsibilities. Interestingly, students felt as though their spouses should provide more support to them during the semester, and the type of support received was not actually the type of support expected. The main obstacle and the largest sacrifice encountered by graduate students was the lack of time for family, relationships, and other areas of their life. Slightly less than one-half of the students indicated that spousal support had remained consistent during their graduate school experience; approximately one-third indicated an increased level of spousal support since the beginning of graduate school. The increase was felt to have occurred because the spouse realized that a long-term goal was going to be met within the immediate future.