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.
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