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Research on Problems Faced by Part-Time University Students

by Natalie Smith

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment among part-time college students rose by 26 percent between 2000 and 2010. But six years after enrolling, 68 percent of part-time students have either dropped out or are still struggling to finish. Individuals who attend school part-time face unique challenges that make it difficult for them to complete school in four years.

Balancing Work and School

Approximately 80 percent of part-time college students between the ages of 16 and 24 work while they are enrolled in school, compared with just 45 percent of full-time students. According to the American Association of University Professors, the rising cost of a postsecondary education is a primary reason why students work while attending school. Having to balance work with classes can lead to a number of problems for part-time students. It may result in minimal face-to-face interaction with professors, diminished sense of belonging on campus and poor grades.

Balancing School and Family

Part-time students may also have to balance school with family. Students with children or those who are caring for aging parents can have a hard time completing their homework because they need to tend to their family members. These scenarios can lead to spotty attendance, late assignments and poor school performance.

Time Management

Without time management skills, part-time students may let their homework pile up

Because they often have outside time commitments, part-time students may find it difficult to resist procrastination. According to Vance-Granville Community College Counseling Services, time management can be a challenge for overbooked college students, especially ones with daunting workloads. Once family members stop monitoring a student’s schedule, it becomes easy for students to neglect their schoolwork.

Solutions for Colleges

Research suggests that there are steps schools can take to help part-time students graduate. According to CompleteCollege.org, colleges should reduce the time it takes part-time students earn their diploma and restructure programs to fit students' busy lives. Schools can do this is by scheduling courses in blocks, so that students can minimize their commute time and plan outside commitments around consecutive classes.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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