'15 to Finish' program aims to get more students to graduate on time

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - "Graduate on time and get ahead" is what the Missouri Department of Higher Education is encouraging college students to do with its new "15 to Finish" program that recently launched.

The program advocates full-time students graduate in four years and also cut student loan debt by taking 15 credit hours a semester, rather than 12.

"We believe that students are planning to complete their degrees and what we know is if we don't have that 15 to Finish starting out with that momentum, that we lose far too many students,” University of Missouri-Kansas City Vice Provost Kim McNeley said.

McNeley said UMKC has implemented this method for several years, suggesting students take more than 12 credit hours a semester in order to graduate on time.

"Our degrees are typically 120 hours,” McNeley explained in order for full-time students to graduate in four years. “So if you take 12 and 12, which is 24 each year, times four, you don't get 120."

According to the Missouri Department of Education, less than 1/3 of college students in Missouri earn an average of 15 credit hours each semester.

"Many of our students and parents come in thinking that this is going to be a new world for their students and they're absolutely right,” McNeley said. “And the knee jerk reaction to that is that students should reduce the number of hours that they're taking to kind of get their feet on the ground and only take 12 or fewer."

"What we've seen anecdotally is that when students really commit to that 15, or a few more, then they suddenly become students first and their decision making is very very different than that," McNeley said.

Some UMKC students gave mixed reaction on the initiative.

"I think it's a heavy load depending on who you are,” UMKC sophomore Victor Olorunfemi said. “For me, during the soccer season, like right now, I prefer to take 12 just because it's a lot harder to take 15, but that second semester with less soccer games and stuff like that, it's more acceptable to take 15 hours."

"I think it's a good idea,” UMKC sophomore Montana Patrick said. “I mean definitely to get in here and you know, take as much as you can to kind of get out as fast as you can."

Sophomore Saloni Patel did feel the program was a good one for new students who haven’t taken any credits before entering college, but mentioned costs may play a factor when it comes to taking 15 credit hours each semester.

“Some students are already on a budget, so adding three extra hours would also, it would kind of harm them a little bit," Patel said.

School administrators said while taking 12 credit hours may be a benefit short term when it comes to costs, it could have quite the impact down the road.

“If you look at the long term, there’s that increase likeliness that you might not complete and so you've wasted an investment in some ways," McNeley said. "Long term commitment of those lost opportunity costs, you get that first time full time job, your professional job two years later, or three years later. And I think it's important for students to help us understand that long term costs opposed to the short one."

McNeley says while the campaign is geared for students to take 15 credit hours a semester, the main goal is to get 30 hours per academic year. For example, taking 12 credits during the Fall and Spring semesters, and pick up an extra class or two during the winter or summer break to graduate on time.

For more information on this initiative, you can click here.



Rae Daniel can be reached at Rae.Daniel@KSHB.com.

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