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Study says Illinois part-time students struggle to complete secondary degrees

A new study released Tuesday says Illinois graduation rates are low for part-time students compared to full-time students.

The study from the non-profit Complete College America looked at self-reported data from the state on both full-time and part-time students at public colleges and universities. The Illinois data says 24 percent of the state's part-time students finish four-year Bachelor's degrees in eight years, while 10 percent finish two-year associate degrees in four years. That’s compared to 63 percent and 26 percent, respectively. In 2009, 47 percent of Illinois students were enrolled at public colleges part time.

Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, said the success of these students is necessary to creating a healthy state economy.

“You need a highly educated work force if you're going to have your economy expand and continue to expand,” said Jones. “And the kinds of students that we're talking about will either make up the middle class or they're going to be stuck in poverty.”

Jones said the numbers are similar across the country. He said colleges, particularly community colleges, are not structured to accommodate an increasingly part-time student who balances school with work and other obligations.

“Those are the students that are failing,” Jones said.

According to the study, 67 percent of Illinois jobs will require at least a career certificate by 2020. Illinois is one of 33 states that joined Complete College America's initiative to bring the number of adults with degrees to 60 percent by 2025. According to the new study, 43 percent of Illinois adults currently have at least an associate degree.

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