Success of Part-Time Students Critical to Closing Achievement Gaps

Underrepresented minorities are more likely to attend community colleges part-time, and part-time enrollment is disproportionately detrimental to their success

Washington, District of Columbia, UNITED STATES

Dallas, TX, April 30, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new EAB report, “Reframing the Question of Equity,” released today argues that the success of part-time students is key to reducing the 20-plus-percentage point achievement gaps that persist between White student outcomes and Black or Hispanic student outcomes. The report, based on EAB data analysis and interviews with more than 100 community college leaders, outlines how Black and Hispanic students are more likely than White students to attend community colleges part-time, a known risk factor, and that going part-time is more likely to negatively affect their ability to graduate.

EAB analysis shows that 84 percent of Hispanic students and 81 percent of Black students enroll part-time for at least one term compared to 72 percent of White students. The analysis further outlines how, for Hispanic students, attending part-time—even for only one semester—means a 39 percent drop in completion rates compared to full-time attendance. For White students, however, the switch from full-time to part-time status results in only a 29 percent decline in completion rates.

“Underrepresented minority students are more likely to be first-generation college students and face challenges that prevent them from attending full-time: financial pressures, family demands, or the lack of a support system,” said Christina Hubbard, Director of Strategic Research at EAB. “Going to school part-time exacerbates those challenges—and makes it more difficult for schools to help students overcome them.”

The EAB analysis details that closing the achievement gap between part-time White and part-time minority students has an outsized effect on the overall achievement gap. Eliminating the achievement gap among part-time student populations would decrease the gap between Black and White students by 13 percentage points. The gap between Hispanic and White students would decrease by 7 percentage points. However, if full-time Black and Hispanic students graduated at the same rates as full-time White students, the overall achievement gaps would decrease by just one to five percentage points.

“There’s a huge opportunity here to advance equity in education if we can provide better support to part-time students,” Hubbard said. “And while many of the advances in community college student success have been focused on full-time students, we see some progressive institutions molding those practices to serve the unique needs of part-timers.”

EAB found that colleges’ advances with academic pathways—the practice of giving students clear term-by-term road maps of the courses they need to take to complete college—presents a challenge to part-time students. These tools are often designed with full-time enrollment in mind, and part-time students find it difficult to determine the optimal order in which to take their classes or how long it will take them to graduate. Most academic pathways also do little to ensure that course scheduling matches the time constraints of working adults.

To address this challenge, innovative community colleges are taking a deeper look at their practices and policies to ensure they are addressing the needs of diverse students. Many are also coupling this effort with data-driven applications that allow learners at all enrollment levels to chart their individual paths to graduation. Doing so helps students make more educated decisions about which classes to take and when. It also allows the advisors to focus their limited time with students on long-term academic and career goals, as opposed to working with students solely on course scheduling.

Wiregrass Georgia Technical College in Valdosta, Georgia, relies on one such application to supplement in-person advising. The result: a four-percentage-point increase in applicant-to-enrollment conversion from fall 2016 to 2017.

About EABAt EAB, we are making education smarter. We harness the collective power of more than 1,200 educational institutions to generate insights that address education leaders’ top challenges. Then we apply these insights through research, technology, and services: We help leaders find and enroll the right students through enrollment marketing and financial aid optimization. We support student success through our student success management system, which helps advisors, faculty, and staff guide students through school and to the postgraduate outcomes students want. And we provide institutions with the strategic guidance and data they need to improve mission-critical outcomes and prepare for tomorrow’s students. For more information, please visit

Media Contact:
Garen Cuttler


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