Study: Full-time enrollment is the most reliable path to completing community college

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Students who enroll in community college full time have significantly higher three-year completion rates, according to a study from the Community Center for Education Results (CCER).

The study tracked about 2,100 students from South King County, Washington, who graduated from high school in 2011 and directly enrolled in one of seven local community and technical colleges. The researchers then monitored how enrollment status, academic background, and demographics correlated with academic success over the next three years, Katherine Long reports for the Seattle Times.

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In the second year, 79% of full-time students remained enrolled compared with just 62% of part-time students.

The early trend continued, and by year three, full-time students had significantly better completion rates:

  • 55% of full-time students had either completed their credential or transferred to a four-year school;
  • 40% of part-time students were still enrolled; and
  • 36% of part-time students had left school.

New strategies for completion

CCER Director Mary Jean Ryan says the data suggest encouraging full-time enrollment is a high-impact strategy for promoting completion—but that, for many students, full-time enrollment is not feasible. Business leaders could make a difference, she says, by designing work schedules that allow students to be academically successful.

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The study also found that students who were able to begin taking some college classes during high school had higher completion rates and that programs promoting college success among minorities and high-risk student in high school were effective. Ryan says when at-risk students are given access to rigorous classes with the proper support, "You can start to see these historical patterns break down" (Long, Seattle Times, 1/13).

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