This week’s readings opened my eyes to more closely examine the services provided to part time students at my institution. Working at a community college, the majority (75%) of the student enrolled at part time. All of the students are commuter so there is not disparity there. It seems as though we should be the experts at engaging part time/commuter students but we are not.
It was unbelievable that Pascarella (2006) discusses the lack of research on commuter and part time students. As working adults return to college and college tuition increases, institutions may observe an increase in part time enrollments. The landscape of higher education seems to be changing and we aren’t ready for it.
Another factor that I have not seen in the research is the development of dual enrollment college programming for high school students. These programs are multiplying exponentially nationwide. What will happen when these students begin to enroll in 4-year institutions with as many as 60 transferable credits? Since these students will only need 2 years, colleges may need to lean on non-traditional student enrollment to sustain them.
As higher education practitioners, we need to do more for part time students. In reviewing the strategies for engaging commuter and part-time students, I like the idea of reframing our approach to new student recruitment. Our catalog should reflect part-time pathways or course tracks to degree (they are currently listed based on full-time enrollment); our new student orientation should be offered more frequently and include evenings and weekends; we need to increase locker availability and student lounges. We should also analyze class scheduling and pay careful attention to times student enroll. We also need to consider expanding online offerings and implement methods of providing students services virtually.
Pascarella, E.T. (2006). How college affects students: Ten directions for future research. Journal of College Student Development, 47(5), 508-520.