Another important factor that distinguished part-time students from their full-time peers was employment. In 2003–04, 83 percent of exclusively part-time undergraduates worked while enrolled, more than one-half (53 percent) of them worked full time, and 47 percent considered themselves primarily employees (figure E). Although a majority of full-time students worked while enrolled (73 percent), just under one-fourth (23 percent) worked full time and 14 percent considered themselves primarily employees.
Compared with exclusively part-time students, working intensity tended to be lower for part-time students who looked like full-time students: 21 percent held a full-time job while enrolled (not significantly different from the 23 percent of full-time students who did so); 11 percent considered themselves primarily employees (lower than the 14 percent of full-time students); and 69 percent considered themselves primarily students (higher than the 59 percent of full-time students). These patterns suggest that many students in this subgroup placed more importance on study than work.
Why did students work? Among students who worked but considered themselves primarily students, financial concerns appeared to be the dominant reason for working: 63 percent worked to help pay their tuition, fees, and living expenses, and 24 percent worked to earn some spending money. Less than 1 in 10 (7 percent) reported that they worked to gain job experience. Exclusively part-time students were especially concerned about their financial situations: 72 percent cited paying tuition, fees, or living expenses as the most important reason for working, compared with 59 percent of full-time students. However, part-time students who looked like full-time students were less likely than full-time students to cite this reason (55 vs. 60 percent).
Although 35 percent of those who considered themselves primarily students thought that working helped them with career preparation, fewer (14 percent) said that it helped them with coursework. On the other hand, between 31 and 48 percent said that working restricted their academic choices including class schedule, number of classes taken, and access to school facilities, and 41 percent reported that it had a negative effect on their grades. Exclusively part-time students were more likely than full-time students to report these problems. Part-time students who looked like full-time students were also more likely than full-time students to report the problems of class choice, class schedule, and number of classes they could take. In summary, working while enrolled seemed to present obstacles to those who considered themselves primarily students.