College students who work long hours and study part time -- a strategy used by many to manage the costs of their educations -- are far more likely than their classmates to drop out of school, new research shows.
The study, being released Thursday by the American Council on Education, found that 52.3 percent of the freshmen it tracked who worked 15 or more hours a week and studied part time quit school within three years.
By comparison, the dropout rate was only 9.7 percent for students aiming for bachelor's degrees who studied full time and held jobs ranging from one to 14 hours a week.
"The way that a lot of students are choosing to finance their education -- namely, by working and by attending part time -- can have really negative implications for their likelihood of succeeding," said Jacqueline E. King, author of the study and director of the council's Center for Policy Analysis.
King acknowledged that some students, particularly those who are older or who are raising children, may have no option but to work long hours and study part time. But she said many other students could "make other choices" that would raise their chances of staying in college and earning bachelor's degrees.
"A lot of students are just assuming that it's better to work than to take out a student loan, and that's not necessarily the case," King said.
A key factor that many part-time students overlook, King said, is that over time they lose money by completing their studies more slowly. The main reason: People generally earn far more after they graduate, so anything that delays their degrees costs them earnings.
"The job market today isn't the super-hot job market it was, say, two years ago. But still, with the income you're going to command once you finish your bachelor's degree and you're out there working full time, it makes sense to get out into the job market," King said.
King said the study's findings were especially noteworthy for low-income students, who face more financial pressure to work long hours to pay for school.
Although working long hours appears to hinder students, the research also showed that a part-time job might help students stay in school. The dropout rate among all students, full-timers and part-timers, who did not hold jobs was 26.7 percent. By comparison, the rate was 15.8 percent among all students working one to 14 hours; 30.6 percent among those working 15 to 34 hours and 52.8 percent among those working 35 or more hours.
King speculated that students who work part time may manage their time more efficiently than those who don't work at all.
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