Submitted On: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Analyst: Greer, Jane
Prompted by Senate Bill 997, which was signed by Governor Jay Nixon in June 2016, Missouri’s Department of Higher Education (MDHE) has launched a “15 to Finish” initiative, encouraging college students to enroll in at least 15 credit hours per semester in hopes of ensuring that students can earn an associate degree in two years and/or a bachelor degree in four years.
According to MDHE, less than one-third of Missouri students earn 15 credit hours per semester. At many post-secondary institutions, 12 credit hours is considered full-time. But a student taking 12 credit hours a semester would need to enroll in the summer as well as throughout the academic year to graduate on time. With an additional year in college costing upwards of $50,00 in tuition, fees, and living expenses, 15 to Finish can result in significant savings, according to MDHE.
Institutions in Missouri are being urged to develop “banded tuition” models that allow students to take classes beyond the typical number of courses for full-time enrollment status at no extra charge. For example, students would pay the same price for 15 credit hours as they would for 12 credit hours. Additionally, some post-secondary institutions may target scholarships and financial aid incentives to support students in their final year of coursework if they are on track to graduate in four years. More details can be found at
15 to Finish in Missouri
15 to Finish is one of the “Game Changers” promoted by Complete College America, a non-profit agency that works with states “to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.” Over 35 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are part of CCA’s “Alliance of States.” More details about CCA and its advocacy for 15 to Finish initiatives can be found at
Complete College America
Inside Higher Education has, however, reported on 15 to Finish initiatives, noting that for many students who are working long hours to pay tuition bills and support themselves, 15 credit hours a semester may be too much of a burden.
IHE on 15 to Finish
The CCCC Position Statement on Principles for Teaching Post-Secondary Writing states that “Sound writing instruction provides students with the support necessary to achieve their goals” and acknowledges that “Students come to postsecondary education with a wide range of writing, reading, and critical analysis experiences.” Institutions are urged to provide support for writers of varying abilities so that they can achieve the literacy goals required by their degree programs. Such support includes “writing classes and resource centers; appropriate placement procedures; and writing across the curriculum or other programs that help faculty identify expectations of and offer instruction in writing in courses beyond the first year and/or writing program.” The 15 to Finish movement may prompt writing program administrators and writing teachers in Missouri to rethink the types of support they might provide to students taking heavier course loads and how they deliver those supports.