RELEASE: New CAP report Illustrates the Unique Challenges of Part-time College Students in America

Washington, D.C. — As institutional leaders, policymakers and researchers consider ways to improve higher education access and success, their efforts too often overlook the four in 10 students enrolled in college part-time, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress. While the share of part-time college students in America is increasing, limited data and a lack of innovative policies to support part-timers has translated into very low completion rates compared to their full-time peers.

Only about one-quarter of exclusively part-time students graduate, and little more than half of students who attend part-time for a portion of their college career earn a degree. By contrast, 80 percent of exclusively full-time students attain a degree.

“When it comes to access and equity, our higher education system is failing to address the unique challenges faced by part-time college students,” said Marcella Bombardieri, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and the author of the report. “When we neglect to place part-time students at the center of the conversation about improving success, our economy ultimately suffers.”

While it makes sense to encourage full-time enrollment when practical, enrollment choices do not occur in a vacuum. The report examines factors that contribute to part-time enrollment choices, which are key for policymakers to consider when developing initiatives that could increase completion rates with these circumstances in mind. Among them:

  • 64 percent of part-time students are age 24 and older, compared to 34 percent of full-time students
  • 42 percent of part-time students work 40 or more hours per week, compared to 19 percent of full-time students
  • 38 percent of part-time students have dependents, compared to 23 percent of part-time students

To read the report, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” click here.

Additional materials:

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Kyle Epstein at kepstein@americanprogress.org or 202.481.8137.