Understanding Part-Time Student Needs

Civitas Learning Civitas Learning Space Community Insights

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University of Washington Tacoma, serving almost 5,000 students, is one of three colleges that make up University of Washington. More than 80 percent of UW Tacoma’s students transfer from local community colleges or from other universities. Students who have been away from college for several years, military personnel and their families, and professionals working on new career goals also add to their diverse populations. According to UW Tacoma (UWT) officials, they recognize that the majority of the students are older, transfer students and are described as “persisting safely” in their majors, meaning they have a clearer sense of the path they are on and may already possess closer relationships to specific faculty members. Many of the UWT students have decided that taking two courses per quarter, not three, is the best arrangement for them because many are parents, work full-time, or are financially struggling. To adjust to the growing non-traditional student populations, UTW had to rethink how they could help their students continue to be successful in the classroom while balancing their non-academic challenges. University officials would often coach students to be realistic about their limits. Administrators and faculty told students that they should be aware of the time requirements for in-class and out-of-class work and to balance those with personal and work commitments. Key to Success? Good Health. UWT understands the life-and-logistical challenges their part-time students face, and they believe that staying healthy is key to staying on track. They encourage students to address personal and health problems immediately. One of the worst mistakes that students make, the university says, is to deny that they are overloaded or unable to cope. They may need to lighten their load by dropping a class, deciding to leave school for a quarter, or having a frank talk with their instructor about alternatives. It’s a Group Effort. Advisors work to stay in touch with their students, even if they leave for a term. If a personal problem is keeping them from concentrating on their studies, the campus encourages the student to discuss the situation with a counselor and work out a solution. The campus also recently began offering hybrid classes, and it has doubled down on online courses. In five years the university went from having four instructors teaching online to nearly 60 – with at least 10% of the students taking at least one online course any given quarter, all because their students needed more flexibility. Their course and time scheduling solution allows students to better screen for online and hybrid options. University of Washington Tacoma recognizes flexibility and empathy with their student outreach and classroom facilitation are essential with their non-traditional student populations. By adjusting resources to student needs, greatly impacts more students driving closer to graduation.
Dive deeper with our Community Insights webinar into part-time student insights:

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Achieving the Dream president, Karen Stout, and Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at Civitas Learning, Mark Milliron dive into the findings from our analysis of 1.4 million student records to learn more about the students who attend part-time.
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To conclude this blog series on support for non-traditional students, read how Sinclair Community College advisors focused on decreasing credits earned, and produced more graduates.