Fifteen to Finish program promotes faster college graduation rates

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Fairmont State junior and Boone County native Taylor Raby is glad she’s able to handle a full-time schedule–something that some students either aren’t able to or choose not to do.

“I thought it was really important just to be able to graduate on time,” she said. “I’m actually going to be able to graduate early, hopefully.”

The upperclassmen was one of nine students to talk with Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, on Thursday during a sit-down meeting to emphasize the importance of taking at least fifteen credit hours each semester.

“In our initial survey across the state of West Virginia–all of the public colleges and universities–we found that 42 percent of the students were not taking 15 or more hours per semester,” Dr. Hill said.

“We think there’s probably a good percentage of those students that could finish faster, really achieve their career goals much sooner, if they were a little bit more focused on taking those hours.”

Raby agrees. That’s why she is advocating for the ‘Fifteen to Finish’ program, which is a feature of College Foundation of West Virginia.

“I just want to help them promote it because it’s a good program,” she said. “And, you know, it’s less money if you graduate in four years.”

Reducing college costs is a common theme at a time when student loan debt, now at 1.2 trillion dollars, has surpassed credit card debt in the United States.

“They might run out of their scholarship money at that point,” he said. “They’re not in the work force out making money on their own. They don’t have a job sooner. We’ve found that they’ve actually perform better if they are focused on their studies.”

Dr. Hill said studies have also shown students perform better when they are taking more than 12 credit hours.

“It saves them money,” he said. “They actually perform better. There is a very important message there.”

Reps with the College Foundation of West Virginia said students who take 12 credits qualify for full-time financial aid status, but as long as they are capable should attempt to take more.

Raby said students who don’t have to work full-time jobs should seriously consider making the switch if they haven’t already.

“They’re never going to know if they can do it if they don’t try,” she said. “That one extra class isn’t really all that hard. It’s just a little bit more work, but it will be worth it.”

Raby said during the discussion her parents told her college was never going to be a choice. She said that was tough-love that she’s grown to appreciate–especially as she prepares for the possibility of early graduation.

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