College Students Spend Less Than 3 Hours Per Day on School

(Photo: Andrew Pons, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Andrew Pons, Creative Commons)

A new study has exposed how college students use their time in an effort to inform taxpayers who subsidize federal student loans, finding that the average college student spends a total of just 2.76 hours each day on all forms of education-related activities.

In “Big Debt, Little Study: What Taxpayers Should Know About College Students’ Time Use,” the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke, Jamie Bryan Hall and Mary Clare Reim find that many full-time college students do not graduate within the typical four-year time span, racking up increasingly large amounts of debt along the way. It argues that taxpayers have a right to know how these students are spending their time since they are the ones who are left “on the hook” for defaults on loans and forgiveness programs.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s American Time Use Survey completed between 2003-2014 show that the average full-time college student spends 2.76 hours per day during the academic year on all education-related activities. This includes 1.18 hours in class and 1.53 hours of research/homework, coming in at a grand total of 19.3 hours per week.

Meanwhile, full-time high school students spend an average of 4.32 hours per day on their education, including 3.42 hours in class and 0.80 hours of research. Their weekly total adds to 30.2 hours per week, meaning that full-time college students spend, on average, 10.9 fewer hours on their education than full-time high school students.

However, employment offers a deeper look into this gap between college students and high school students. While the average full-time college student works close to 16.3 hours per week, the average high school student works only 4.0 hours per week. This explanation closes the gap between the two, with full-time college students spending a total of 35.6 hours per week on education-related and work-related activities, and full-time high school students spending 34.2 hours per week.

The authors also found that college students who are unemployed spend more time each week on education-related activities than do students who are employed either part-time or full-time. While full-time, unemployed students spend 24.9 hours each week on their education, those who are employed part-time spend 19.9 hours, and those employed full-time spend 8.5 hours.

The report found that 60.5% of full-time students and 79.9% of part-time students work at least part-time while in school, suggesting that the students understand the importance of paying off their debt quickly. However, it adds that 40% of full-time students do not work at all while in college.

With more students in college building up ever-increasing debt, the burden of repayment falls increasingly on the shoulders of taxpayers through those that default in addition to an expansion of federal loan forgiveness programs. The Obama Administration increased the income-based repayment program in 2015, capping repayment at 10% of discretionary income as the amount that borrowers can be required to pay per month for those who have federal Direct Loans. In addition, all borrowers who have undergraduate loans have any debt remaining forgiven after 20 years.

The authors write that loan forgiveness is not a sound practice, saying that it allows colleges to increase tuition and fees, which in turn pushes more of the burden of repayment onto taxpayers.