Voices and Viewpoints

Part-Time Enrollment as an Implication for Equity in Community Colleges

by Margo Wagner, Director of Community and Corporate Education and Dual Credit at Rend Lake College / Jan 24, 2018

The American Association of Community Colleges (2017) reports that 62%, or 4.5 million students, attend our nation’s community colleges as part-time students. Rend Lake College (RLC) is committed to creating an atmosphere in which all students feel welcome, included, and successful! This includes our part-time student population, often comprised of non-traditional students. As we explored equity gaps between part-time and full-time students through the Pathways to Results (PTR) process, our institution identified a lack of support services, less cohesive pathways, time management barriers, and limited contact time as challenges. In order to address these challenges for our part-time students, RLC is implementing new curricular and co-curricular support strategies to meet the unique needs of this group of students. 

Curricular Strategies

RLC’s success rate with short-term programs is greater because there is a definite finish line.  In addition, opportunities for full-time employment in applied fields can draw students away from making progress toward degree completion. Therefore, our PTR team is excited to begin revamping curriculum sequences in key programs to accommodate part-time students.  The bulk of our curriculum sequence at the present time is set up based on either a two or three day a week schedule which meets the needs of our traditional students.  RLC plans to lengthen the time frame for completion and sequence the courses to meet the scheduling needs of our part-time students.

Co-Curricular Strategies

We have recently implemented the First-Year Experience program for part-time degree seeking students rather than just allowing full-time students to enroll. In addition, campus support services have increased their availability and are working toward including an online component which students can access. In order to engage our non-traditional student population, RLC is sponsoring night time events to mirror those held during the normal school day.  For example, the college provided a stress reliever activity for the evening classes similar to the daytime event.  Our tutoring center, writing lab, and math lab are all staying open late one night each week for our students to capitalize on support services.  Students Services, comprised of advisement, testing, and financial aid are all staying late one Tuesday per month to be available at more opportune times for our non-traditional students.  The day will remain consistent each month to eliminate confusion. 

RLC is also actively pursuing Professional Development opportunities to address the differing needs of our non-traditional students. These offerings will be made available to all faculty and staff during our various in-service days throughout the semester.

Reference

  • American Association of Community Colleges (2017). Fast facts 2017. Washington, DC: Author. 
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