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First Time, Full Time is not All Time, Any Time
Steven C. Panagiotakos, Strategic Policy Advisor for Greenwood & Hall
October 3, 2011
Every student counts but not when it comes to Retention Rates or Graduation Rates.
These rates, that are often quoted and relied upon, only measure first time, full time students. However, this group only makes up about 60% of all higher education students.
The other 40% is made up of a growing population of part time students, non-first time students and transfers. But they are not counted in the retention and graduation numbers sent by schools to the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
How could this be? Four out of every ten students not counted. Policy, rankings and admissions decisions are based on these important yet incomplete numbers.
That is one of the salient points made by Complete College America in a recent report entitled “Time is the Enemy.” If we are to get a true picture of student success, let’s get a complete picture by looking at the non-traditional students too.
The cohort used for the study was all public higher education students from 33 participating states, which came to almost 10 million students. The methodology utilized was the Complete College/National Governor’s Association Common Completion Metrics.
When the complete picture emerges, it is even more troubling than the partial picture of a 57.2% six year Graduation Rate for all first time, full time students at four year institutions.
As might be expected, part time students, who are balancing families, lives and jobs, are struggling to make it through to completion within the IPEDS 150% time frame.
And, unfortunately, the vast majority don’t.
Maybe, because they are only attending part time, we need to look at an expanded time frame for completion. And that’s what this study did.
Full time Part time Full time Part time Full time Part Time
27.8% 12.2% 18.8% 7.8% 60.6% 24.3%
One year certificate Two year degree Four Year Degree
within two years within four years within eight years
We would naturally believe that with increased time, the completion rates of part time students would be much closer to full time students. However, even when you increase the number of years to 200%, the completion of part time students is still abysmal.
The problem is more life than time. Part time students have to become master jugglers to make it through. They don’t have the benefit of being able to be single focused like full time students.
So what can be done?
The report makes these recommendations for helping part time students complete.
- Use Block Class Schedules for certainty and efficiency and to fit busy lives.
- Quicken the time to completion with shorter terms, less time for breaks and summer schedules.
- Make registration easy by signing up just once for a full program of study.
- Decrease class time by use of eLearning.
- Develop student support and learning networks.
- Place remediation into the regular curriculum.
- Full transparency before enrollment of Cost, Graduation Rates, and gainful employment.
This study has certainly given us the empirical evidence to identify the severity of the problem and the recommendations and motivation to do something about it. Even though this study only looked at 33 states and only looked at public higher education, it has given the clarion call that when it comes to student success; all students must count and be counted.