Podcast: On Part-time Student Success–Welcoming Strangers in Their Own Land

Early in my career, I conducted a national study on part-time faculty as part of my dissertation. As we completed that work, Drs. John and Suanne Roueche, and I authored a book entitled Strangers in Their Own Land: Part-time Faculty in American Community Colleges. The book was an attempt to shine a light on an often-avoided truth: a substantial portion of the instruction in American higher education was being provided by faculty that were teaching part-time, often neglected, and that some would say were being exploited. The issues were tough, the rhetoric was heated, and the solutions were far from simple. Nonetheless, the conversation was vital for those concerned with access and excellence in education.

Much like that conversation then, we now are all-too-often confronted with another group of “strangers in their own land”—part-time students. They represent a substantial cohort of learners in higher education, and are heavily first-generation, older, working, and/or low-income strivers with very different issues than the more traditional students. These students are often lost in the conversations about student success, as the focus homes in quickly on the more traditional, full-time, right-from high school cohorts. This focus is not surprising when the federal and state data systems have been significantly biased toward them. First-time, full-time, fall students remain the reporting coin of the realm in higher education, a remnant of a more traditional time in higher education.

Thankfully this is beginning to change. Just in the last few months, the folks at IPEDS introduced changes to their reporting regime that began to give institutions credit (and incentive) for serving part-time students. Colleges and universities like Rio-Salado Community College, University of Central Oklahoma, and University of Washington at Tacoma cheered. Thanks to these changes their work begins to literally count.

Still, part-time students deserve more attention in our larger discussions about student success in higher education. Indeed, if we want more–and more diverse–students to succeed on higher education journeys, learning more about these students and how to help them successfully navigate their pathways matters. And the answers are not as simple as just moving them to full time. Indeed, the impactful innovation around time to degree for many part-time students might have more to do with taking just one more course.

In this podcast, Karen Stout, President and CEO of Achieving the Dream, and I unpack the most recent Community Insights Report from Civitas Learning, which explores part-time student success data and strategies. Take the time to download the report and listen to the conversation; it will help you and yours bring into the light these students that are often left in the shadows; moreover, it might catalyze important conversations about how you can help them achieve their dreams!

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