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A New Angle on Part-Time Students

July 10, 2007

The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics has gone beyond comparing full- and part-time undergraduate students by examining differences within the part-time undergraduate student group.  According to the new report Part-Time Undergraduates in Postsecondary Education: 2003-04, about 25 percent of part-time undergraduates in 2003-04 showed some characteristics typically associated with full-time students.  These “part-time students who looked like full-time students” were traditional college age, graduated from high school with a regular diploma, and received financial help from their parents to pay for college.  When compared to other part-time students, they were more likely to be white, have parents with higher degrees, come from wealthier families, and have expectations to earn an advanced degree.

The report also provides demographic information on part-time undergraduates in general as well as distinctive comparisons between part-time and full-time undergraduate students.  These findings include:

  • Part-time students represented 37 percent of the undergraduate enrollment in all degree-granting postsecondary institutions in fall 2004

  • Part-time undergraduates were more likely to be older, female, Hispanic, financially independent, and first-generation students compared to full-time undergraduates

  • More than 80 percent of part-time undergraduates worked while enrolled in college with more than half working full time compared to 23 percent of full-time undergraduate students who worked full time

For additional findings, including an analysis of students who switch between part-time and full-time enrollment status, visit the NCES Web site to download the full report.