Most higher education policies and practices currently revolve around the assumption that full-time enrollment equates to 12 credits per semester. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University asserts that taking 12 credits per semester does not lead to timely degree completion and discusses how 15-credit strategies may address barriers to college completion.
Not only does taking 12 credits per semester not put students on a pathway to completion in 4 or 8 semesters (depending on if the degree being pursued is an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree), but the report suggests that students taking 15 credits per semester are more likely to complete than students who take fewer credits. Therefore, CCRC presents research related to 15-credit policies and strategies being used nationally, as well as evidence on their effectiveness.
CCRC offers considerations colleges and states wishing to adopt 15-credit approaches:
• Type of strategy. Are 15-credit strategies the most appropriate and effective means to incentivize higher intensity enrollment, or would students be better served by variations focusing on 30 credits per year or on-time completion?
• Academic performance. Is there a trade-off between high enrollment intensity and academic performance? Does enrolling in 15 credits result in potentially negative course- taking behaviors, such as dropping courses or enrolling in “easy” courses?
• Support services. Beyond financial incentives and social marketing campaigns, what should colleges and state systems do to ensure that program requirements and services are designed to help students stay on track for on-time completion?
• Target population. A universal 15-credit strategy may end up primarily benefiting students who would have enrolled in 15 credits anyway (Monaghan & Attewell, 2014). At the same time, due to competing responsibilities and other barriers, not all students will be able to enroll in 15 credits. What is the most effective way of targeting 15-credit strategies to benefit the students who need them most?
• Financial burdens. Who bears the cost of “free” courses resulting from tuition incentives.
Click on the following link to view the full report.