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Statistical Analysis Report:

Postsecondary Financing Strategies: How Undergraduates Combine Work, Borrowing, and Attendance

February 1998

(NCES 98-088) Ordering information


Although undergraduate tuition, room, and board have been rising rapidly, the opportunity costs associated with not receiving postsecondary training have also increased. Despite the in-creasing cost of attending, high school graduates are enrolling in postsecondary education at rec-ord rates. Faced with the challenge of financing their enrollment, students have increasingly opted to work, borrow, or attend part-time. This analysis describes how undergraduates combine work, borrowing, and attendance, and examines the relationship between these strategies and students’ persistence in postsecondary education.
  • The majority of undergraduates work while enrolled. In 1992–93, 72 percent of the un-dergraduates in this analysis worked while enrolled, and they worked intensively—an average of 31 hours per week and 88 percent of the months they were enrolled (table 2). Compared with students at other types of institutions, students enrolled at public 2- year institutions were the most likely to work; worked the most hours per week, on av-erage; and worked over the greatest percentage of their months of enrollment.
  • In 1992–93, 18 percent of the undergraduates borrowed through student loan programs to help pay for their education (table 3). Students at private, not-for-profit 4-year and private, for-profit institutions were more likely to borrow (34 and 42 percent, respec-tively) than those at public 4-year or 2-year institutions (23 percent and 5 percent, re-spectively).
  • Forty-one percent of the undergraduates enrolled exclusively full time during the 1992– 93 academic year, 43 percent enrolled exclusively part time, and 16 percent had mixed full- and part-time enrollment (table 4). Students in 2-year public institutions were much more likely than those in other types of institutions to enroll exclusively part time (65 percent compared to 20 to 26 percent).
  • Among students who worked while enrolled in 1992–93, there was a negative associa-tion between average hours worked per week and full-time attendance. However, within each category of hours worked per week (no work, 1–14 hours, 15–33 hours, and 34 or more hours), students who borrowed were more likely than those who did not borrow to attend exclusively full time (table 7).
  • How students combined work, borrowing, and attendance varied by institution type. Among students who attended exclusively full time, between 25 and 29 percent at each type of institution neither worked nor borrowed (table 8). At public 2-year institutions, another approximately 65 percent relied on work without borrowing. At public 4-year institutions, 27 percent worked 15-33 hours and did not borrow (more than any other strategy except not working and not borrowing). Exclusively full-time students at pri-vate, not-for-profit 4-year institutions were more likely than their counterparts at public 4-year institutions to borrow and work (at each level of work).
  • Among students who began their postsecondary education in 1989–90, there was a strong, positive association between attendance intensity and persistence as of spring 1994. Students who attended exclusively or partly full time were far more likely than those who attended exclusively part time to have earned a degree or be still enrolled (73 percent compared with 25 percent) (table 10).
  • Students who worked, but less than 15 hours per week, had the same persistence rate regardless of whether or not they borrowed (about 80 percent). In contrast, among those who worked more hours, borrowers had higher persistence rates than nonbor-rowers (77 versus 61 percent among those who worked 15-33 hours, and 48 versus 25 percent among those who worked 34 hours or more).
  • After controlling for work, borrowing, attendance status, and other factors considered to be related to persistence (such as gender, age, race–ethnicity, dependency status, lo-cal residence, socioeconomic status, cumulative grade point average, and type of insti-tution attended), working 34 or more hours per week and attending part time were negatively associated with persistence, and borrowing was positively associated. High grades were also positively associated with persistence.

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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education