Think of college and, chances are, you picture 18-year-olds strolling across a leafy campus on their way from dorm to class.
That is not reality for most college students today.
More than half of college students today attend part time, do not start right after high school, transfer at least once or experience some combination of all three, according to new research from the National Student Clearinghouse. These nontraditional students are much less likely to earn a bachelor's degree in six years, or an associate's degree in three, than their younger, full-time counterparts.
Some 77 percent of full-time students entering college in 2008 earned a degree in six years, compared with just 43 percent of students who attended a mix of part time and 21 percent of entirely part-time students, the study found.
"It still amazes me, the degree to which the recognition of the massive demographic shift in the American student body is an unknown fact for most Americans," said Robert Hansen, chief executive of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association. His organization estimates that just 15 percent of college students today are full-time, first-time students living on campus.
The rest, he said, are often juggling jobs, family and more. And trying to cobble together credits from different attempts at a degree, and contending with class schedules that don't accommodate their own work and family obligations, can be daunting.
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