The challenges part-time students face

Providing excellent support to part-time students starts with understanding their experience, Pat Donachie writes for Education Dive.

A recent report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) paints a picture of part-time student life. To complete the report, CAP researchers analyzed data from the Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as findings from secondary literature.

Who are part-time students and where do they enroll? According to the report, part-time students generally attend public institutions (86%), particularly community colleges (60%). Roughly two thirds of them are over the age of 24 and just under half (42%) work full-time.

Part-time students need more support from colleges, Donachie writes. He notes that, according to the report, only about a quarter of part-time students earn a bachelor's degree within eight years of starting college. In addition, four out of every 10 part-time students do not return after their first year of college.

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Part-time students face a range of challenges, particularly spotty access to financial aid. In one of the report's examples, a full-time student could receive financial aid to cover half of attendance costs, whereas a part-time student in the same financial situation would only receive financial aid for 17% of their costs. Some states don't offer any financial aid to part-time students, sometimes as an incentive to enroll full-time, according to Marcella Bombardieri, a senior policy analyst on the postsecondary education team at CAP and the report's author.

She encourages administrators to continue working with lawmakers to support better outcomes for part-time students. In addition, Bombardieri recommends administrators offer more resources, such as high-quality tutoring, evening and weekend hours, and career development opportunities.

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Bombardieri also urges institutions to track more data related to part-time students because their numbers are on the rise, and there has historically been very little federal data about part-time students (Donachie, Education Dive, 9/8). 

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