Why 15 to Finish?

As a strategy of the 360 Advising initiative, the 15 to Finish Campaign encourages students to take 15 credit hours or more per semester to improve timely degree completion.

It is common knowledge that 12 credits a semester qualifies students as “full-time” for financial aid and other purposes. However, students who take 12 credits per semester cannot complete their degrees on time. “On-time” degree completion is important because the longer that students stay in college, the less likely they are to complete their degrees and the greater the cost.

Not all students can be full-time students for various reasons, such as family responsibilities and full-time work schedules. The UW System 15 to Finish Campaign targets students enrolled in 12 to 14 credits, for whom just one more class per semester would put them on the path for on-time completion. While 15 credits may not be realistic for every student, all students should have access to information about the benefits of credit momentum and on-time degree completion.

Join us in promoting the 15 to Finish message to help students start strong, build momentum, and finish on time.

 “We’re eager to share with students how a 15-credit semester can help them maintain momentum toward graduation and boost their academic success.”

Angela Kellogg, 360 Advising Initiative Team Lead

Start Strong

An important factor in on-time degree completion is credit momentum, which refers to students’ course loads when they begin college. The more momentum students build early on in college, the greater the chances they will graduate altogether and on-time.

UW System data indicates that 45% of freshman at the four-year campuses have accumulated between 24 and 29 credits by the end of their first year, which means they are full-time students for financial aid, yet they are not on-time for graduation.

Graduate On Time

Graduating on time can help make higher education more affordable and reduce the amount of money students need to borrow for their undergraduate education. They could save the cost of an additional year paying for tuition, fees, books, room and board. Those costs, plus the loss of foregone wages for a full-time job, can top $50,000 for a year. 

Graduating on time also allows students to take their next steps to pursue further education, start their career and contribute to their communities.



Build Momentum

College students who complete at least 15 credits per semester are more likely to be retained and to complete their degrees. UW System data shows that students who took 30 credits or more in their first year are more likely to return—90% compared to 85% for those taking fewer than 30 credits. They are also more likely to graduate—73% in six years compared to 64% of those taking fewer than 30 credits. Underrepresented minority students, Pell grant recipients, first-generation students, and students scoring 25 or lower on the ACT especially benefit from taking 30 credits in their first two semesters.

Campaign Goals

  • Empower students to make informed decisions about their credit load
  • Change the mindset related to full-time enrollment as 15 (not 12) credits
  • Build awareness regarding the benefits of credit momentum and on-time degree completion
  • Encourage working with an academic advisor to purposefully select courses to meet degree requirements
  • Increase the percentage of UW System students taking at least 15 credits per semester / 30 credits per year

Steps to Success

Advisors and other faculty/staff
  • Share messages with students regarding the importance of credit momentum and timely degree completion
  • Encourage students to take 15 credits per semester or 30 credits per year and develop proactive plans to help them be successful
  • Know your institution’s data regarding credit momentum and on-time degree completion and use it to inform your strategies
  • Review institutional policies and practices to ensure they align with timely degree completion
  • Address capacity and resource issues, such as ensuring students have enough courses and the right course offerings for students to stay on-track for graduation; analyze availability of summer and short-term courses such as winterim or second 8-week courses
  • Ensure students have access to academic maps that lay out a plan toward on-time completion
UW System
  • Provide resources to support campus campaigns
  • Implement other Complete College America (CCA) strategies such as academic maps, Momentum Year, and the Purpose First initiative