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Part-Time College Students Less Likely to Graduate

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Going to college part time to improve your life while holding down a job or raising a family (or both!) is considered almost noble, but a new study suggests that becoming a part-time college student is setting yourself up for failure.

Despite rising college enrollment rates, the percentage of students that actually graduate is remaining stagnant. More and more students aren’t graduating on time; most part-time college students never even graduate.

Time is the Enemy when it Comes to Graduating from College

Time is the Enemy: The surprising truth about why today’s college students aren’t graduating … and what needs to change, is a report released last week by Complete College America, a national non-profit organization founded in 2009 that is striving to significantly increase the number of Americans with a college degree.

The group used data from 33 states to determine how many students earned degrees at public colleges and universities. Data included information about whether students were enrolled at two- or four-year schools and if they were full- or part-time.

Results show that part-time college students struggle and rarely graduate, even when they stay in school twice as long as their full-time peers:

  • 11.8% of part-time students earn a 1-year certificate within 2 years, vs. 27.3% of full-time students
  • 7.4% of part-time students earn a 2-year associate degree within 4 years, vs. 18.7% of full-time students
  • 25.6% of part-time students earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree within 8 years, vs. 60.6% of full-time students

Non-Traditional College Students are the New Tradition

The study also found that so-called non-traditional college students have become the new traditional students. Seventy-five percent of students are commuting to college while juggling families, jobs, and school. Just 25% of college students attend classes full-time at residential colleges.

Most students take far too many non-credit or unnecessary classes, increasing the time spent working toward a degree or certificate. Remedial courses also increase the time spent in school. An example is Samuel Torres, a 35-year old Broward College student profiled by The Sun Sentinel. He dropped out of college the first time around and recently returned to school after working a string of low-paying jobs. Before he can begin to pursue an associate degree, he must first take non-credit remedial math and English classes. “It is frustrating, but these are the procedures they have in order to succeed and move on,” he told the newspaper.

Revamp Remedial College Classes

The New York Times explains that half of all students studying for an associate degree and twenty percent of students studying for a bachelor’s degree are required to take remedial courses, and many of those students never even make it to the point of taking courses for credit, let alone graduate.

Complete College America report suggests that remedial programs should be integrated into credit-earning courses by extending class times and offering tutoring and additional support. “Time is the enemy of college completion,” the report said. “The longer it takes, the more life gets in the way of success.”


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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