Over the past five years, full-time undergraduate student
enrollment at CSU has increased by more than 2,000 students. During
the same period, however, part-time undergraduate enrollment has
dropped by nearly 200 students, from 2,100 in the fall semester of
1999 to 1,915 in fall 2003.
According to the Office of Budgets and Institutional Analysis,
part-time enrollees made up 7.6 percent of the total CSU
undergraduate population in the fall 2003 semester, whereas that
number was 9.2 percent in fall 1999.
Similarly, part-time undergraduate enrollment, which consists of
any student registered for six to 11 credits, has experienced a
decline in the spring semesters as well, dropping from 10.1 percent
of the total population in 1999 to 8.7 percent in 2003.
“I would venture to guess that the high cost of attending school
is a big factor for students to go part-time and still be able to
work and make money to pay for school,” said JoAnn Cornell, career
counselor for the College of Liberal Arts. “Many students I’ve
talked with…are concerned about the amount of loans many of them
have taken out to finish school and are concerned with their jobs
out of school and being able to pay off those loans.”
Governmental involvement may have played a part in the recent
decline, though it seems unlikely, Cornell said.
“There has been legislation pushing students to finish in four
years, I believe because the policy-makers believe it costs too
much for students to go more than five years,” Cornell said.
“However, from the perspective of working with students, that push
is difficult, given students might change majors in their college
careers, other circumstances…or have financial concerns that
might have to draw them out of school.”
An increase in the unemployment rate, coupled with a perceived
decline of job security, might contribute to the part-time
“It is the main factor,” said Ronnie Phillips, chairman of the
Department of Economics. “(The decline) will continue as long as
the economy does not create new jobs, probably for one to two more
Tuition costs may also have an impact on the declining
proportion of part-time students. At CSU, anybody registered for
nine credit hours or more pays the same tuition rate, which, when
added to student fees, comes out to about $1,900 for residents and
$7,100 for non-residents.
“If you take 18 credit hours you pay the same as if you take
nine credit hours,” said Gerald Bomotti, vice president of
Administrative Services. “One could argue that taking at least 18
credit hours per semester would allow you to finish your degree in
no more than seven semesters, or three-and-a-half years. Therefore,
you end up paying the least amount per credit hour for the degree,
and you get out early and start working in your profession.”
Most undergraduate students must fulfill a 120 credit-hour
requirement to earn a degree.
If a resident student chose to complete this requirement by
taking 9 credit hours per semester, it would take over 13
semesters, or nearly six and a half years, spending close to
$19,000 in tuition costs and student fees.
A student who registers for 18 credit hours per semester would
graduate in seven semesters, or three and a half years, at a cost
of less than $10,200, saving nearly $8,800.
In addition, undergraduates must register for 12 or more credit
hours to qualify for full federal financial aid programs. Students
enrolled with less than 12 credits only qualify for partial
financial aid, whereas those with six or less are ineligible for
any financial assistance.
A part-time schedule, however, can still be beneficial,
depending on a student’s particular situation.
“It is no doubt dependent upon the individual circumstances of
the student involved,” Bomotti said. “Some students must work a
considerable amount of time and/or there are specific family or
personal issues involved. Therefore, part-time attendance is
Gene Frizzelle, who graduated from CSU in 2001, chose to switch
from a full schedule to a part-time class load during his last
semester. The reasons for changing were to put more time into his
long-term goal, he said.
“I wanted to spend more time doing work finding a steady job and
to put more effort into important stuff,” Frizzelle said. “I wanted
to focus more on my career.”