Charleston Gazette: State wants to redefine ‘full-time’ college status

Article: Charleston Gazette

September 30, 2014
By Mackenzie Mays

Federal financial guidelines require a college student to take 12 credit hours each semester in order to be a labeled full-time student, but more and more education officials say that’s not enough if students want to complete their degrees on time.

West Virginia is joining several states across the country in launching a “15 to Finish” campaign, which urges colleges to promote 15-credit semesters in an attempt to get more students to complete courses in the right time frame and subsequently avoid higher tuition costs and a delayed entry to the workforce.

Fewer than half of students in West Virginia complete a four-year degree within six years, according to Complete College America — a national nonprofit organization.

Bruce Vandal, vice president of Complete College America, who spoke Tuesday at a 15 to Finish conference in Charleston hosted by the state Higher Education Policy Commission, said by changing the norm from 12-credit semesters to 15-credit semesters, colleges are seeing major academic improvements in students.

“Students are on average taking longer than we have designed the system to provide for them, and the longer it takes, the prospects of their graduation do not go up,” Vandal said. “So what that tells us is we have students who are either perpetually enrolled or, unfortunately, we’re losing them along the way. That is the most profound reason we need to focus on decreasing time for degrees.

“Time is the enemy,” he said. “We know that the longer it takes a student to complete a post-secondary education, there’s more of a likelihood that life will get in the way for those students.”

As part of the campaign, the HEPC hopes to have at least 65 percent of college students in West Virginia taking on 30 credit hours each year by 2018. Read the full story »