- Slightly more than half of part-time college students who enrolled in 2013 left college within six years without earning a credential, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC).
- Only about one-third of part-time students who entered college in 2013 had graduated after six years. That's compared to about two-thirds of full-time students who graduated and one-quarter who were no longer enrolled after six years.
- Colleges are paying more attention to learners who leave school without completing a credential as a way to boost their enrollment and student outcomes.
Part-time students enrolling in 2013 were two times more likely to stop out over six years than full-time students, the new report notes, highlighting the need to focus retention efforts on this population.
This trend starts early in students' academic careers. Within two years, around 24.4% of part-time students left school without completing a credential, compared to 13.1% of full-time students.
And these disparities are growing. While full-time students' stop-out rate has improved over the last few years, part-time students' stop-out rate has risen.
Part-time students stopped out at the highest rate at for-profit, four-year colleges, with 55.7% leaving by year six without earning a credential. They fared the best at private, four-year nonprofits, with 46.2% stopping out within six years. However, these schools had the largest performance gap between part-time and full-time students, with the former group nearly three times more likely to stop out than the latter.
Several states have launched campaigns to encourage more students to attend college full time. Indiana began requiring students in 2013 to complete at least 24 credits annually to qualify for state financial aid and went on to launch a campaign designed to get students to complete 15 credit hours a semester. Those efforts have been accompanied by steady increases in the state's on-time completion rates.
However, part-time students need more support to transition to full-time status, the Clearinghouse report notes, adding that colleges should provide services such as child care and help with financial aid.
The pandemic raises the stakes for part-time students, said NSCRC Executive Director Doug Shapiro in a statement.
Roughly 36 million students have left college without completing their degree, according to a separate report last year from the NSCRC.
Some colleges are working with outside companies to contact students who left without completing a credential and guide them through the reenrollment process. Others are offering these students incentives to return.
In 2016, for instance, Colorados' Pueblo Community College said it would forgive up to $1,000 in institutional debt for stopped-out students if they reenrolled and finished one semester. And the University of New Mexico offers reenrolled students who withdrew in their senior year up to $750 in tuition assistance each semester for two years.