States pushing ‘15 to Finish’ graduate-on-time message

Program touts full course-load to increase academic success and decrease debt

West Virginia is the latest state to encourage college students to take 15 credits or more every semester so they can graduate on time.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Complete College America, the “15 to Finish” campaign is already in 15 other states, most notably Hawaii, which first developed the program. In its first year, 2011-12, the state was able to increase the number of students taking 15 hours per semester by more than 17 percent.

The idea is that a full course-load helps increase academic success and decrease student loan debt, says Jessica Tice, senior director of communications at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC). Another goal for West Virginia is to increase the portion of jobs in the state that require an associate degree or higher from 27 to 51 percent by 2020, she adds.

“Overall, a campaign like this is a simple way to change students’ mindset of what a full course-load really means,” Tice says.

Thinking that 12 credits, or about four classes, is a full course-load is a common misconception among students, as that’s the minimum number of credits to be considered full time, says Jessica Kennedy, HEPC’s assistant director of communications. “Not only have we found that taking 15 credits makes students more focused, but if a student does poorly in one class while only taking 12 credits, there’s a greater risk of needing an extra semester or two to graduate.”

To kick off “15 to Finish” in West Virginia, representatives from HEPC were, at press time, planning to meet with campus officials. State campuses will receive multimedia outreach kits that include videos to play at orientations, email and newsletter announcements to send to students, and radio advertisements to play on campus radio stations.

To learn more about “15 to Finish,” visit

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