15 to Finish: New push to graduate college "on time"

There's an increased effort in Indiana to encourage more students to graduate college "on time." The Indiana Commission for higher Education is partnering with state colleges and universities to offer financial incentives to students who commit to take at least 15 credits per semester.

The Commission collected data and says it proves students who make the commitment are more likely to graduate college, to pay less in the overall cost of education and to hit the job market faster.

The discrepancy between how many credits are enough exists because of what the Commission calls a “disconnect” between financial aid requirements and what is actually necessary to graduate in four years.

"The reality is, there isn't a single degree program in the state of Indiana, whether it be a 2-year degree or a 4-year degree, that if you take fewer than 15 credits a semester that you can graduate on time," said Jason Bearce, an Associate Commissioner with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Universities and state colleges are offering financial incentives to students who commit to specific credits. At Ball State University and Indiana University- South Bend (IU-South Bend) students can lock in four years of tuition prices by meeting credit requirements.

"It ends up being at least a 4 or 5% discount by the time you get to your senior year, so that's a great incentive as well to finish in four," said Terry Allison, the Chancellor at IU-South Bend.

At Ball State, 84% of students are enrolled in 15 credit hours or more. Those numbers are increasing in part because of financial incentives like tuition locks. Students who register for 30 credits a year can earn a $500 credit if they maintain that number at Ball State.

"In 2012-13, we had 968 students that earned that credit," said Dr. Kay Bales, the Dean of Students at Ball State. "In 2013-14, we had almost 1100 students."

There is skepticism as to whether students should be pushed to higher standards, especially in extenuating circumstances. Often, college counselors will advise students from low income families, first generation students or students who work part or full time to take less credits. The Commission disagrees with that method, claiming in most situations, 15 credit hours are doable.

"The numbers don't lie. Numbers will tell us that across the board at all of our campuses, there's a fairly significant group of students that are falling short," said Bearce.

Click here for more information about the 15 to Finish campaign in Indiana


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