College graduation rates in this country are terrible, but they are far worse for the majority of students who attend college part time.
That's a big take-away message from an alarming new study, which was released today, that suggests that the longer students stay in school, the less likely they are to earn a college degree.
While the typical image of a college student is someone who lives in a dorm, attends school full time and has most of the bills paid by their parents, the reality is starkly different. About 75% of students are commuters, who hold down jobs and juggle family obligations as they pursue their college dreams.
The report, released by a nonprofit called Complete College America, is a big deal because it is focused on the college progress -- or lack of progress - of the majority of American college students. Strangely enough, the federal government doesn't keep track of the graduation rates of part-time college students or those who transfer to other schools. The government only compiles the graduation rates of full-time students.
The report, which was funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and others, is an attempt to fill this grad-rate void and shine a light on the difficulty many Americans experience earning a degree.
The Graduation OddsThe research, which relied on graduation rate statistics from 33 states, illustrated how difficult it is for students to earn a college degree when they are attending school part time. For instance, only 7.4% of these students earned an associate degree within four years while just one out of four part-timers earned a bachelor's degree within eight years. In comparison, 58% of full-time students graduate with a bachelor's degree in six years. I realize this isn't an impressive figure either.
Why the Graduation Delay?What are the hang ups?
Schools often don't make it easy for part-time students to attend.
Students are taking excessive credits. Frankly, I think it's a scandal that students routinely have troubles getting other schools to accept their credits from community colleges and other four-year institutions when transferring.
Remedial courses are a road block that keeps many students from making progress. Half of students at community college must take non-credit remedial classes, as well as one in five students seeking a bachelor's degree. The report recommended that remedial work be embedded into for-credit classes.
And I'd like to add my own reason for why its tough slogging for part-timers: Because the federal government isn't keeping track of these students' progress, it's easy for schools to avoid making it a top priority.
More on The College Solution:
Why Your Child Won't Graduate in 4 Years
Graduation rate image by Stack Coordination. CC 2.0.