Tuition Assistance for Part-time Students is a Good Investment

Nontraditional, part-time students are a large part of the higher education student population today. National Center for Education statistics show that part-time students are different from full-time students in several ways that can create financial difficulties.
• 62 percent of part-time students go to two-year schools compared to 25 percent of full-time students
• 64 percent of part-time students are age 24 or over compared to 34 percent of full-time students
• 71 percent of part-time students are on their own financially compared to 41 percent of full-time students
• 42 percent of part-time students work 40 or more hours per week compared to 19 percent of full-time students
• 38 percent of part-time students have dependents compared to 23 percent of full-time students
• 60 percent of part-time students are enrolled for half the year or less compared to 31 percent full-time students

Having dependents, working 40 hours or more per week, and being responsible for their own financial circumstances are challenges that contribute to lower attainment rates for many part-time students. But for many students attending part-time is the only option. They must continue to work as many hours as possible to be able to support their family. Many can’t reduce their work load because of losing their position or seniority in the company, future raises or momentum in their career.

For many part-time students financial aid isn’t an option for easing their financial issues. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) data shows that many part-time nontraditional students do not qualify for traditional financial aid programs from the federal or state governments. Other studies from the Education Commission of the States (ECS) show that 29 out of the 100 largest state programs give aid only to full-time students, and 43 of the 100 programs limit the number of school terms a person can receive aid, eliminating students who attend part-time for more terms.

This financial dilemma doesn’t just affect the part-time nontraditional students. It affects everyone. When students don’t earn their degree, can’t keep up with advances in technology or reach their earning potential, the entire United States is held back. Business can’t meet growth and production goals and the U.S. won’t be globally competitive.

Taking action to address the part-time student financial issues will reach into the future. The US Department of Education estimates that the part-time student population will grow by 18 percent from 2012 to 2023 compared to 14 percent for full-time students. Part of this growth may be due to the need for American workers to continuously gain new skills to work with new technology, while they are employed. Lifelong education will happen while people continue their work lives.

Tuition assistance plans are a good investment for businesses, resulting in highly trained workers. The most effective tuition assistance will support students in several ways. Academic advising can help workers choose the most effective path to their goal, taking courses that are most beneficial. Including competency-based education and prior learning assessments can speed up the time to the goal by recognizing skills that students have gained through nontraditional settings.

Tuition assistance benefits are a way to help highly motivated workers complete their education. And the graduation rates of part-time nontraditional students are showing promise. In spite of the challenges they face, DOE data shows that part-time student older than age 24 have graduation rates more than two times the graduation rates of younger part-time students.