Community College Students Who Work

Most community college students work either part- or full-time while enrolled. Working while enrolled can help students gain valuable experience but can also be a barrier to college completion.

Nationally, over two-thirds of community college students work either part- or full-time while pursing their degree. ACCT’s previous analysis of the 2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS ‘16) shows that community college students are likely to be independent, older, and have their own dependent children—as such, it is likely that many of these students were already working before starting school or need to work while enrolled to support themselves and their family. Further ACCT analysis shows that most community college students have unmet financial need, despite grant aid. Many of these students likely seek work to cover tuition and living expenses. Working while in school can have positive impacts, such as allowing students to gain experience in their field; however, working while enrolled also creates additional responsibilities for students and can deter successful college persistence and completion.

Using NPSAS ’16 data, ACCT analyzed the characteristics of students of students who worked either part- or full-time (including work study). Our analysis shows that students who work, especially those who work full-time, are more likely to attend classes part-time, be independent, older, and have their own children in comparison to community college students overall. Below is a further breakdown of the data on these students.

In 2016, over two-thirds of students who worked full-time attended class only part-time.

Author's analysis of NPSAS:16

While students who worked part-time were more likely to be aged 18-24 (69%), students who worked full-time were more likely to be aged 25 and older (60%).

Author's analysis of NPSAS:16

Most students who worked full-time were independent.

Author's analysis of NPSAS:16

Students who worked full-time were more likely to have dependent children of their own (34%) than students who worked part-time (19%).

Author's analysis of NPSAS:16

The data on working students sheds light on the need for supports to help these students persist through college and complete their degree. Initiatives to support working students include increasing access to child care on campus and allowing for flexible scheduling options. Increased financial aid is especially important to ensure students have enough resources to cover the cost of tuition and living expenses without the need to take on a burdensome work schedule in addition to their coursework.

Allison Beer is the Senior Policy Analyst for ACCT. She can be reached at

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