College Students Spend 19 Hours Weekly on Studies, 29 Hours on Leisure

Three men walk by the University of Nevada, Reno's original administration building,
AP Photo/Scott Sonner

A new report finds that the average full-time college student spends 19 hours per week on education-related activities and 29 hours per week on socializing and leisure activities.

Heritage Foundation education researchers Lindsey Burke, Jamie Bryan Hall, and Mary Clare Reim conducted an analysis of college students’ time use to demonstrate to taxpayers footing the bill for federal student aid how their tax dollars are being spent.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey from 2003-2014, the researchers found that, on average, the demands of full-time enrollment in college are substantially less than those for either high school or full-time employment.

On a daily basis, average full-time college students spend 2.76 hours on education and class-related activities and 4.4 hours on social and leisure activities.


The cost of college tuition is increasing at the same time the federal government is originating and managing 93 percent of all student loans and has launched a liberal student loan forgiveness program – all of which means the burden of increasing amounts of student debt has been taken up by taxpayers at the same time average college students are spending less time with their studies.

The researchers note:

Students are accruing more debt to earn a bachelor’s degree, and the burden of loan repayment is increasingly being shifted to taxpayers. Not only do taxpayers bear the burden of defaults, but thanks to an expansion of federal loan forgiveness programs, they are also responsible for an increasing number of student loans that now qualify for forgiveness…

The limited amount of time spent engaged in education-related activities on average suggests that, for some students, the amount of debt accumulated finances a significant amount of non-education hours. When loans are forgiven, then, both education and non-education time is financed by taxpayers. Although numerous exogenous factors play into time to degree, such as when courses are offered and the mitigating circumstances of individual students, time-use data suggest that taxpayers end up generously subsidizing the non-education time of many college students.

“If we want federal taxpayers to forgive student loans, we need to realize they will be forgiving a lot of leisure time,” says Heritage Foundation education fellow Burke.


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