Part-Time College Students Less Likely To Finish Degree

Part time college students are less likely to obtain their degree as advocates call for more support for these individuals.

By Erika Hanson | Published

University Warns Professors Not To Discuss Abortions Or Contraception With Students

part time college

Some students finish out their K-12 journey with the notion that they will place higher education on the back burner or only take a few classes here and there while they figure out what to do with the rest of their life. While this may work for some teenagers, many parents and educators frown upon this idea, as they fear this perfunctory action will lead to eventual dropouts. Seeming to prove this theory true, a new report found that part time college students are less likely to finish a degree program than those who attend with a full schedule. 

This new finding comes from Complete College America, an advocacy group that strives to help students finish college and attain their degrees. The report studied data made publicly available by the National Center for Education Statistics tracking outcomes for both part time college students and full timers. Less than 20% of first-time enrollees enrolled in few enough classes to qualify them as part time graduates from college within eight years of starting the journey. 

Similarly, only 25% of transfer students enrolled part time at college. On the contrary, 46% of first time students taking a full schedule of classes, and 51% of full time transfer students finished their degree programs. What’s more, the report depicted how most part time students tend to be older learners and students of color. 

Experts have been studying the potential reasons why these nontraditional students have been failing to complete college for years. Calls for lawmakers to address this has been growing. Oftentimes, there are complex reasons as to why students decide to only take a handful of classes. Sometimes, the reason is because of unavoidable outside factors, such as having to care for family or keep up with job demands. Advocates have been urging colleges and universities to better support this specific group of part time college students who often fall through the cracks. 

College costs play a major role in part time college student attrition rates. Making matters worse, this group of individuals is prohibited from applying for certain scholarships, grants, and aid. Scheduling also can drive some away from college altogether. While nighttime classes are offered at plenty of schools across the nation, many have limited offerings and availability. Those who have to keep daytime jobs are deterred from limited schedule offerings. Oftentimes, these students feel undersupported or recognized by their schools. 

There’s still hope for these students, as states work to combat this finding and address the needs of part time college students. Just last week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul expanded the Empire State’s tuition assistance program to include those enrolled in college part time. This will benefit some 75,000 students who currently attend college in the state.

part time college

This new evidence makes it clearer than ever that part time college students need better support systems to help them finish their degrees. In a growing fashion, more and more Americans feel that college degrees altogether are not worth the trouble. If something doesn’t change, the dropout rate will perpetually worsen.