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Utah renewing push for college students to do this (video)

Published October 22, 2013 7:35 pm

State aims to get college students to see benefit of taking 15 hours per semester.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Accompanied by an indie pop guitar beat, the graphics move swiftly across the screen and gray letters on a yellow background proclaim: "Don't let expenses drag on for years. Go out in the world. Use your degree."

The video released Tuesday is part of Fifteen to Finish, an effort to improve higher education graduation rates in Utah, where at least half of students who enter college don't graduate.

The 30-second video extols the virtues of taking 15 credit hours every semester, the load generally required to graduate in four years with a bachelor's degree or two years with an associate degree. Aimed at first-time undergraduates and timed to roll out with spring registration, the campaign includes the video, to be shown on screens across Utah's college and university campuses, as well as ads in student newspapers, on the Web and in social media.

The shift to 15 hours shouldn't be too difficult for the approximately 74 percent of first-time freshmen who were already taking 11 credits or more in fall 2012, said Pam Silberman, Utah System of Higher Education spokeswoman.

"It's not a huge push to add a class," she said.

And a Hawaii study found that students improved their grades with a 15-hour course load, regardless of academic preparation.

"We know that students who enroll in at least 15 credits finish college faster and can start on a career that provides financial independence and increased lifetime earnings," said Utah's commissioner for higher education, David Buhler, in a statement.

Except for the University of Utah, institutions in the state don't charge more money for 15 hours than for 12. The U. will also offer so-called plateau tuition in the next year or two, Silberman said.

The change could be unmanageable for students with family responsibilities or who have to work to afford college, though Silberman maintained that the sooner students graduate, the less tuition they have to pay.

"It seems to make a lot of sense, 'I'll work part-time and earn a degree,' but the data doesn't support that," she said. "Life gets in the way and you're not focused on education as the primary objective. If you're able to really focus on education for a short period of time, the payoff is great."

The campaign will continue through summer orientation for next year's incoming freshmen, and high school students getting ready for college will also see it. Students with a state-funded Regents' or New Century Scholarship are already required to enroll in and successfully complete 15 credits each semester following a Utah Legislative vote earlier this year.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com

Twitter: @lwhitehurst