Debt has become a $1.3 trillion problem for college students. Taking more courses each semester could be part of the solution.
If students would just take on 15 course-credit hours instead of the traditional 12, the savings are estimated at nearly $13,000 for someone trying to earn a four-year degree, according to a report by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. The study showed that Tennessee students who signed up for 15 course credits in their first semester paid 10%-20% less per degree in tuition and fees.
Completion rates for the 15-credit students rose as well, according to an article in The Atlantic. Those community college students were 6.4% more likely to earn a degree, while the same held true for 11% of four-year students.
The report noted that students who started their college careers by taking 15 credits had the same pass/fail rates as those with 12-credit terms. The research did find that students with lower high-school grade-point averages didn’t fare as well with the extra load.
The Columbia research reinforces the results of a 2012 study that showed part-time community college students were less likely to complete a degree than their full-time counterparts. It also confirmed the findings of the “15 to Finish” campaign, a program developed at the University of Hawai’i.
“Research shows that students with a full-time course load, meaning 15 credits per semester, who consistently enroll full-time are most likely to graduate,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said in an education committee hearing last year. “However, a 2013 survey of institutions showed the majority of so-called full-time college students are not taking the credits needed to finish in four years for a bachelor’s or two years for an associate degree.”