Campaign aims to increase college-completion rates, save students money
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – As colleges across the state kick off the fall semester, officials at the Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) are reminding students of the importance of earning at least 15 credit hours per semester to stay on track for graduation.
Through their “15 to Finish” campaign, HEPC policy experts hope to help more students complete degree programs and reduce the overall cost of higher education.
Federal financial aid policies define “full-time” enrollment as 12 credits per semester, and, as a result, many students taking only 12 hours think they are on track. In reality, taking 12 credit hours per semester stretches the time it takes for a student to earn a four-year degree to five years.
Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the HEPC, said that extra year can prevent students from earning their diplomas.
“Time is the enemy of college completion,” Dr. Hill said. “The longer it takes for students to make progress toward their degrees, the less likely they are to finish. Life events tend to get in the way, and the increased costs of additional semesters can be a major deterrent.”
HEPC partnered with Complete College America (CCA) to launch the “15 to Finish” campaign on campuses in 2015. Since then, the number of West Virginia students earning at least 15 credit hours per semester has increased by nearly seven percent.
According to research from CCA, students who attempt at least 15 credits perform better academically than those taking fewer classes.
Dr. Anthony Jenkins, President of West Virginia State University and part of HEPC’s state-level CCA team, said students benefit from immersing themselves in the campus environment.
“I’ve urged State students to take 15 credit hours per semester; thus, decreasing time to degree completion and positioning them to graduate in four years, saving themselves and their families in future costs,” President Jenkins said. “Graduating on time is important as it provides the student with direct goals that are attainable, places them in the job market that benefits them immediately, provides employers with the trained workforce needed and has a direct impact on the state’s economy.”
Completing college faster also offers major financial benefits. CCA estimates that an additional year at a public four-year college costs nearly $150,000 when accounting for additional tuition and fees and the opportunity costs associated with delaying entry into the workforce.
For more information on the “15 to Finish” initiative, visit the state’s free college-planning website at www.cfwv.com.