New Data Reveal Key Opportunities to Improve Part-Time Student Success

Civitas Learning News

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AUSTIN, TEX (Oct. 11, 2017) – Civitas Learning today released an analysis of data from 60 institutions designed to inform college and university efforts to improve outcomes and increase persistence, particularly for fast growing populations of part-time and nontraditional students.

The new report which analyzed data from nearly 1.4 million students, offers a fresh perspective on the effects of course-load on the success of part-time students. According to the data, even small shifts in course load can have a profound impact on success rates, particularly for part-time students. The report also found that the average gap in persistence between full-time and part-time students is 12.03 percentage points.

“At community colleges, an estimated 62% of students are pursuing their studies on a part-time basis, for financial or personal reasons,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, in her foreword to the report. “For those 6.5 million students, too many of whom never graduate, colleges must be prepared to have more expansive and nuanced conversations about completion. If our collective goal is to improve outcomes across higher education, we cannot and must not take our attention away from those students.”

Today’s release comes at a time when the policy of “15 to Finish” – which encourages students to take 15 credits per semester – has gained national traction among policy makers and institutional leaders. Rooted in research which suggests that a full-time course-load can have significant impacts on degree completion, a growing number of states and systems have codified 15 to Finish into legislation and institutional policy. The newest Civitas Learning Community Insights Report offers a more granular perspective to help institutional leaders understand how course loads can affect persistence rates for large numbers of students that might struggle to maintain 15 credits due to non-academic commitments, such as work and family.

“Time to degree is a major concern for students, one that colleges often do not take seriously enough. Research shows that students who can take more classes on a focused path to a degree, should, because it helps them succeed at higher rates. Whether it’s 15 in a term, 30 in a year, or just one more class.” said Dr. Davis Jenkins, Civitas Learning advisor and Senior Research Scholar at Community College Research Center. “This report adds another important component to this conversation regarding the on-path progress of part-time students, who are a large part of the higher education mix.”

An estimated 75% of today’s students are either working adults, parents, part-time students or some other type of post-traditional learner, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Higher education advocates are increasingly focused on helping part-time students identify and navigate a more personalized pathway in a way that that respects work and family commitments.

“You can’t serve all students, if you don’t see all students. Unfortunately, we often fall prey to focusing on what we are forced to measure most — first-time, full-time students — rather than forming a full picture of our diverse students and their diverse needs,” said Dr. Mark David Milliron, Co-founder and Chief Learning Officer of Civitas Learning. “This report is intended to help catalyze a broader conversation by drawing more attention to students who are sometimes forced into the reporting shadows. When an institution has a better picture of all their students, part-timers included, they can provide more precise support, recommendations, and encouragement — and significantly improve outcomes as a result.”

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