Helping students get degree on time

Kokomo Tribune

The percentage of adults with college degrees in Indiana has dropped over the past decade. The Hoosier State’s college attainment rate is 42nd in the nation.

There is an urgency to raise the completion rates of two-year and four-year college degrees, as well as workforce credentials. And in 2014, the state took significant steps to help more students graduate on time.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education launched an initiative to keep college students on track for graduation. Called “15 to Finish,” it encourages students to take at least 15 credit hours each semester.

To graduate on time, students need to complete a minimum of 30 credits per year, or 15 per semester. But just 33 percent of students attending Indiana’s public colleges were doing so at the time.

At Indiana University Kokomo, that percentage was 14 percent.

Gov. Mike Pence signed House Enrolled Act 1348 in 2013, as well. It requires students to complete at least 30 credit hours each year in order to renew their financial aid at the same level the following school year.

The majority of state aid is distributed through the Frank O’Bannon education grant and 21st Century Scholars program.

Recently, the Commission for Higher Education reported more college students with financial need were on track for on-time graduation at the state’s publicly funded institutions. Statewide, 30-credit-hour course-completion among 21st Century Scholars improved 23.2 percent over the prior year at four-year colleges and 24.2 percent at two-year colleges.

It was the second straight year of double-digit improvement. IU Kokomo was singled out as one of the most improved state schools last year.

Thirty-nine percent more 21st Century Scholars enrolled in at least 30 credit hours in 2013-14 than in the previous academic year — a significant achievement.

Each additional year of college costs students $50,000 in tuition, lost wages and related costs, according to the commission. Worse, state financial aid runs out for students after four years, increasing the probability they will drop out.

Students, take 15 credit hours each semester at college. You’ll be more likely to graduate and save money.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.