Full-time Students Have an Edge, According to Community College Survey

Nov. 27, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas—Being a full-time rather than part-time community college student significantly alters a student’s education experience, according to The University of Texas at Austin’s annual Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE).

The CCSSE, administered out of the College of Education’s Community College Leadership Program (CCLP), is a national report that assesses the degree to which community college students are involved in their education experience.

Data from past research repeatedly have shown a positive correlation between student engagement and student academic success. As part of the community college student survey, students are asked about how they spend their out-of-class time, kinds of support they receive from their colleges, ways they interact with faculty and the degree of academic challenge they experience.

This year’s data from 249,548 community college students at 447 colleges in 46 states show that part-time students are less likely than full-time students to talk often about career plans with an instructor or academic adviser, discuss grades or assignments with an instructor, frequently use e-mail to correspond with an instructor or access academic advising services.

The 2006 survey indicates the majority of community college students feel academic advising is the most important support service their college provides—even more crucial than financial aid or tutoring—but that about 29 percent of part-time students and 16 percent of full-time students receive no advising services. Students identify faculty members as their most important source of advising, but results from a companion survey, the 2006 Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, show that about 10 percent of full-time faculty and 40 percent of part-time faculty spend no time advising students during a typical week.

“Perhaps the most surprising finding,” says Dr. Kay McClenney, CCSSE director, senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Administration and senior associate with the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning, “is that 60 percent of part-time faculty members are spending some time advising students even though they rarely are paid for that work.”

This year’s survey results also show:

  • Only 15 percent of students report often or very often discussing ideas from their readings or classes with instructors outside of class, while 48 percent have never done so.
  • Students report their coursework requires rote memorization and complex analysis in about equal measure.
  • Almost a third of full-time students report that they wrote four or fewer papers or reports of any length during the academic year.
  • Transferring to a four-year college or university is the primary goal of 50 percent of respondents.

“Almost half of the undergraduate students in public colleges and universities in the United States are enrolled in community colleges,” says McClenney. “Data about student behavior, experiences and academic achievement has the potential to help college leaders improve education outcomes for a very large body of learners.”

To view or download the CCSSE, visit the Community College Survey of Student Engagement online.

For more information contact: Kay Randall, public affairs specialist, 512-232-3910; Dr. Kay McClenney, director, Community College Survey of Student Engagement, 512-471-5228.