Perpetual student

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A perpetual student, also known as a continual / continuous student (a sometimes used UK term) or professional student (though the latter term has more than one meaning in the USA), is a college or university attendee who re-enrolls for several years, typically more than what is necessary to obtain a given degree.

Traits of or reasons for such behaviour include:

  • Time constraints (inability to devote full-time to studies due to a job or raising a family);
  • Indecision (changing one's major one or more times);
  • Inability to find a job;
  • Pursuit of more than one degree or major;
  • Inability to complete a final thesis or dissertation;
  • Student loans becoming due for payment once student status is lost;
  • Unwillingness to abandon the social aspect;
  • Desire to continue participation in extra-curricular activities, particularly competitive ones that require participants to be registered students;
  • Political organizing; and / or
  • Desire to avoid getting a job.

Efforts to deter perpetual students include denying funding in the form of loans or grants to students beyond a certain time limit or already holding a degree of equivalent level to that the student wishes to study.


  • Johnny Lechner has been attending the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater since 1994.[1] He was scheduled to graduate in 2008 with multiple majors and minors, but continued into a 15th year of college.
  • Benjamin Bolger, who received his first 4 year degree from the University of Michigan, claims[verification needed] to be the second most credentialed student in modern history, with ten master's degrees and a doctorate.
  • Michael Nicholson has 30 degrees, including 19 master's degrees and one doctorate.[2]
  • Milton De Jesús has been a student at the University of Puerto Rico since 1963. Mr. De Jesús was recently interviewed by the newspaper, since he is the only student at the campus that can make comparisons among the 2010 student strikes and the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2005 strikes. It is not certain if he has a degree.[3]

Portrayal in media[edit]

The 2002 film National Lampoon's Van Wilder tells the story of Van Wilder, a popular student who has been in college for seven years, with no plans to graduate.

The CW Network's program Girlfriends‍ '​s character, Lynn Searcy, remains in school and receives multiple post-graduate degrees.

The Librarian is a series of made-for-TV movies from TNT starring Noah Wyle as a perpetual student who becomes a librarian protecting a secret collection of artifacts.

Diane, from the TV comedy Cheers.

The character of Daljit ("DJ") from the 2006 Bollywood movie Rang de Basanti.

The character of Peter Trophimof in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.

Rincewind, the protagonist of many of Terry Pratchett's books, is a perpetual student. He is provided from a grant, and remains eligible for it only when enrolled as a student. However, he makes sure that he actually never graduates.

The character Marella from the show Air Wolf had about 8 doctorate degrees.


  1. ^ Sam Dillon (2005-11-10). "For One Student, a College Career Becomes a Career". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  2. ^ Twenty-seven degrees and counting: Kalamazoo man enjoys the 'freedom' of intellectual pursuits
  3. ^ El Nuevo Día year xxxx, vol14449 page 6

Further reading[edit]

  • Kalamatianou, A. McLean, S. (2003). “The Perpetual Student: Modeling Duration of Undergraduates Studies Based on Lifetime-Type Educational Data”, Lifetime Data Analysis, 9: 311-330.
  • Kalamaras, D. Kalamatianou, A. (2006). “Life table methods for the duration of studies: further results”, Proceeding of 9th Young Statistician Meeting, 24.