Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Katherine C Aquino

Second Advisor

Kathryn T Hutchinson

Third Advisor

Stephen Kotok


As the fields of medicine and medical technology continue to advance, more students with chronic illnesses will be able to fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree. These students who may be ill or well at any given time have health issues that affect “normal” life activities and require some form of ongoing medical care. The purpose of this study was to obtain a better understanding of serving college students with chronic illnesses through the lens of both institutions and students. It also provides an opportunity to increase awareness of this underserved population and their unique situations. It is an emerging issue in higher education that needs to be investigated. This exploratory study used the online survey instruments created by the researcher, the College and Universities Serving Students with Chronic Illnesses Survey and College Students with Chronic Illnesses Survey. Respondents were 136 college administrators solicited primarily through the Association for Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) organization and the Disabled Student Services in Higher Education (DSSHE-L) listserv and 74 students through the snowball sampling strategy. Major themes revealed through the research included communication, training, mentoring and other support services, institutional support, and a lack of support. Almost half of the student respondents who had a chronic illness did not consider themselves to have a disability. Even though institutions pride themselves in their serving these students on a case-by-case basis, these students need different accommodations than those who have physical or learning disabilities. As such, distinct forms of communication are necessary to reach this population. Institutions perceive that they provide the information and students know where to obtain it, while students indicated they had issues obtaining support and information. Both students and institutions believe that training is essential, especially for faculty, as well as to have workshops for students on aspects of coping and managing stress and health issues. The findings of this research serve as a guideline for institutions and provide suggestions to serve this population. Students with chronic illnesses will also find this information beneficial in their pursuit of a college degree.