Skip Navigation
small NCES header image

Statistical Analysis Report:

Profile of Part-Time Undergraduates in Postsecondary Education: 1989-90

May 1995

(NCES 95-173) Ordering information


This report uses data from the 198990 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:90) to describe the population of part-time undergraduates who were enrolled in postsecondary education in the United States during the academic year 198990. It examines how enrollment status varies with a range of student and attendance characteristics; examines differences in the composition of the part-time and full-time student population; analyzes the grades earned by part-time undergraduates and the length of time they were enrolled in 198990; and examines tuition costs and receipt of financial aid among part-time undergraduates.

  • Statistics for fall undergraduate enrollment in higher education institutions (i.e., 2-year and 4-year institutions) since 1970 show that part-time enrollment has grown substantially in absolute terms and relative to full-time enrollment. From 1970 to 1990, the number of part-time undergraduates in higher education more than doubled (to 5 million students in 1990), while full-time enrollment increased by one-third (to 7 million students in 1990). As a result of these different growth rates, part-time enrollment grew from 28 percent of total enrollment in 1970 to 42 percent in 1990.
  • Half of all undergraduates in postsecondary education in 198990 (including those attending less-than-2-year institutions) were enrolled full time throughout their enrollment during the year; 36 percent were exclusively part time; and the remaining 14 percent changed their enrollment status during the year. Of those who changed their status, slightly more than half began as part-time students and subsequently enrolled full time (56 percent), while the remainder shifted from full-time to part-time status.
  • Two-thirds of undergraduates over 30 years old were exclusively part time, compared with about half of those aged 24 to 30, and only about one-fifth of those under age 24.
  • Comparing the age composition of the populations with different patterns of enrollment intensity, three out of four exclusively part-time undergraduates were age 24 or older, compared with one of four exclusively full-time students and one of three students with mixed enrollment intensity.
  • More than half of all students in public, less-than-4-year institutions attended on an exclusively part-time basis, compared with only one-quarter to one-fifth of students attending other types of institutions.
  • Seventy-two percent of exclusively part-time undergraduates attended public, less-than-4-year institutions, compared with 28 percent of exclusively full-time students and 47 percent of those with mixed enrollment intensity.
  • Exclusively part-time students were much more likely than others to have non-spouse dependents (41 percent versus 14 to 18 percent).
  • Among traditional college-age undergraduates (defined as those under age 24), part-time students averaged lower grade point averages than full-time students. Among older undergraduates, however, grades were not systematically related to enrollment intensity.
  • On average, exclusively part-time undergraduates were enrolled for fewer months in 198990 than full-time undergraduates. This difference persists within degree program, and also when the comparison is restricted to first-year students.
  • One in five part-time students received financial aid in 198990, compared with two in five of those with mixed enrollment status and half of those who were exclusively full time.
  • Exclusively part-time students attending private, for-profit institutions were 4 to 6 times more likely to receive federal aid than those attending private, not-for-profit institutions, and 7 to 13 times more likely to receive federal aid than their counterparts at public institutions.
  • Employer aid was the most common source of financial aid received by exclusively part-time undergraduates.
  • Although few students overall reported that they had reduced their load or had withdrawn from school due to a lack of funds (5 percent), part-time students were more likely than full-time students to have done so.

PDF Download/view the full report in a PDF file.(581K)

For more information about the content of this report, contact Aurora D'Amico at Aurora.D'

Would you like to help us improve our products and website by taking a short survey?

YES, I would like to take the survey


No Thanks

The survey consists of a few short questions and takes less than one minute to complete.
National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education