School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Margaret Ackerman


Accredited Colleges and Universities, Business Ethics, Ethics, For-Profit and Not-for Profit Colleges and Universities, Moral Law, Morals


Adult and Continuing Education Administration | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Higher Education | Higher Education Administration


The purpose of this case study is to identify issues some doctoral students face in obtaining their Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree from accredited for-profit colleges and universities. The three participants attended for-profit universities in the past five years and failed to obtain their doctoral degrees. Data collection is through an initial demographics survey, qualification survey, vignettes, and the interview itself. Data analysis from the Coding Manual for Qualitative Research by Johnny Saldana is used to analyze the data collected from problems doctoral students encounter in pursuit of their doctoral degree (Saldana, 2013). The theoretical foundations for this project come from Kohlberg’s Three Stages of Moral Development, in which the last stage focuses on the evaluation of the individual’s society (Crane, 1985). This research serves as information for administrators and curriculum designers for doctoral programs for accredited public, private, for-profit and nonprofit, traditional and nontraditional colleges and universities offering doctoral programs. According to the results, non-traditional students find themselves having to make moral and ethical value judgments based on Kohlberg’s Moral Stages of Development in pursuit of their PhD doctoral degrees. Based on the evaluation of data, the method of accrediting agencies evaluating higher education must be revamped in order to meet the rising needs of the student today, and these revisions are not limited to the federally funded aid offered to students but to the academic criteria involved in evaluating student success through the degree process as well as in the final stages of the doctoral process.