West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission launches ’15 to Finish’ initiative

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Representatives of West Virginia’s public four-year colleges and universities gathered today in Charleston to launch the Higher Education Policy Commission’s statewide 15 to Finish* campaign, an initiative designed to encourage students to take 15 credit hours each semester and promote timely degree completion.

“Enrolling in and completing at least 15 credits per semester is essential to completing a degree on time – within four years for a four-year degree,” said Dr. Paul L. Hill, the Commission’s Chancellor. “And the payoffs for taking this full course load extend beyond timely degree completion. Research has shown that taking 15 hours each semester actually improves academic performance, reduces student loan debt, saves students money on tuition and improves their employment prospects by allowing them to begin their careers as soon as possible.”

Dr. Bruce Vandal, Vice President of Complete College America, and Dr. Linda Johnsrud, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas System, joined West Virginia’s campuses for today’s 15 to Finish Institute.

Dr. Johnsrud is nationally known for her work on the 15 to Finish campaign at the University of Hawaii System, where the initiative originated. Since the launch of Hawaii’s campaign, the percentage of students enrolled in 15 or more credits has increased by nearly 20 percent at four-year campuses – and those students persisted through college at higher rates than those taking fewer than 15 credits.

“I want to congratulate the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission for launching this initiative,” said Dr. Johnsrud. “The current campus culture says ‘take 12’ and we need to change that. All students need to understand that it takes 15 credits per semester, or 30 per year, to graduate on time – and that there are genuine payoffs to doing so.”

The Commission is providing campus representatives working in academic affairs, student affairs, admissions, public relations and advising with the information and resources they need to encourage students to take a full course load of 15 hours, balance their schedules and graduate on time.

The 15 to Finish initiative goes hand-in-hand with the Commission’s five-year plan for higher education, Leading the Way: Access. Success. Impact., which has set bold goals for increasing the number of students completing quality academic programs.

“By 2020, 51 percent of jobs in West Virginia will require an associate degree or higher,” said Chancellor Hill. “For our students to succeed in college and in their careers, taking the step of enrolling in and completing 15 hours per semester is a smart choice that can put them on track for a promising future.”

*15 to Finish is a registered trademark of the University of Hawaii System and is being used by West Virginia with permission through the Complete College America initiative.