15 to Finish

In Hawaiʻi and across the country, the norm has been to take 12 credits per semester, which results in an additional one to three years to complete a degree. The University of Hawaiʻi was the first university system in the nation to put together a comprehensive strategy to encourage students to take 15 credits each semester in order to graduate on time. The strategy was developed based on research that showed students who took 15 credits or more perform better academically than students taking fewer than 15 credits. The campaign to communicate with students supports individual campus procedures to improve on-time graduation.

The UH Community Colleges almost doubled the number of first-time freshmen taking 15 or more credits. Strategies that support on time graduation included:

  • Developed My Academic Planner (MAP), an intuitive, online academic map that continually recalculates and provides the students with their optimal pathway to completion, with milestone courses clearly defined to guide students through their program requirements. 
  • Encouraged buy-in of advisors and other internal stakeholders through presentations of data analysis.
  • Advised students that 15 credits is the full-time load to graduate on-time and to think of 15 as the norm instead of the minimum 12 credits.
  • Incorporated the 15 to Finish message in new student orientations,
  • Provided mechanisms that support the completion of 15 credits per semester or 30 credits per year for students (i.e. mandatory advising, courses based on academic maps, a schedule of courses published for an entire year, block and cohort scheduling, etc.).
  • Instituted guidelines to promote and ensure that students complete their math and English course requirements in their first year.
  • Developed multiple remedial/developmental education strategies.
  • Review programs with graduates who have excess credits of 20 or more above the minimum needed to complete the degree.
  • Improved course scheduling and availability (waitlist, monitor gateway courses, track failed registration attempts, etc.).
  • Conducted outreach to non-returning students.
  • Convened a Veteran’s Taskforce.
  • Developed prior learning assessment.
  • Provided supplemental instruction and course redesign.
  • Centralized major financial aid processes.
  • Reduced summer tuition.
  • Provided targeted scholarships.
  • Developed partnerships with external funders for Project Wai‘ale‘ale at Kaua‘i Community College, Lunalilo Scholars at Kapi’olani Community College and Paipai o Ko‘olau at Windward Community College.  These programs worked with cohorts of students who would otherwise not be in college.  UHCC is developing additional partnerships for the other colleges.
  • Implemented Agree to Degree where students sign a pledge promising to attend their classes, get good grades, check their UH email at least once a day, talk to instructors when having difficulty, meet with counselors when having academic or personal issues, and commit to making education a priority in their lives.

Additionally, UH implemented a system-wide Reverse Credit Transfer policy; a process in which students’ academic credits for course work completed at a four-year university are transferred back to their community college to satisfy associate degree requirements.  It was first piloted in Spring 2013 with one campus where 300 eligible students were identified.  It expanded to all seven community colleges in Fall 2013 where 600 eligible students were identified.  There was no cost to the student other than the fee if they wanted a diploma.  To date, over 1,000 Reverse Credit Transfer degrees were awarded.

The initial findings of the 15 to Finish campaign showed that students who took 15 more credits in their first semester:

  • Had higher end-of-semester GPA.
  • Had higher credit completion Rates.
  • Persisted to following Spring and Fall semesters at higher rates Results were statistically significant.

More information on 15 to Finish can be found at www.hawaii.edu/hawaiigradinitiative/15-to-finish/

ID 15351

To contact this college about this intervention, take note of the ID above, ID #15351, and then fill out the intervention contact request form

Please note that for security purposes, contact information can only be provided to known contacts at active Achieving the Dream institutions.

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