UH students on track to graduate on time and enter workforce sooner

More than 55 percent of first-time freshmen entering UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu enrolled in 15 or more credits in the fall 2014 semester, a result of the UH System “15 to Finish” initiative.


sealThe University of Hawaiʻi announced that more than 55 percent of first-time freshmen entering UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and UH West Oʻahu enrolled in 15 or more credits in the fall 2014 semester, which will help more students graduate on time and enter the workforce sooner.

The increase is attributed to the 15 to Finish campaign launched by UH’s Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative in 2011 and the many campus initiatives focused on improving on-time graduate rates (two years for an associate degree and four years for a bachelor’s degree). As a result of the campaign’s success, universities in 20 states have adopted similar initiatives.

“We are pleased to hear that an idea we created and implemented to help our students is being adopted across the country,” says Joanne Itano, UH interim executive vice president for academic affairs. “Our long-term goal is to increase the number of citizens with a college degree to prepare a highly skilled workforce and promote the economic vitality of our state.”

In Hawaiʻi and across the country, the norm has been to take 12 credits per semester, which results in an additional one to three years to complete a degree. UH was the first university system in the nation to put together a comprehensive strategy to encourage students to take 15 credits each semester in order to graduate on time. The strategy was developed based on research that showed students who took 15 credits or more perform better academically than students taking fewer than 15 credits. The campaign to communicate with students supports individual campus procedures to improve on-time graduation.

In addition to the increases at the four-year campuses, the UH Community Colleges almost doubled the number of first-time freshmen taking 15 or more credits. The overall strategy has been endorsed by Complete College America, a national non-profit group that works with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees.

“It’s nice to know that I’m on track to graduate on time and what I’m trying to do is not unusual,” says Micah Gowen, a social sciences student at UH West Oʻahu.

UH Maui College student Kelcie Rapoza says, “I was taking 12 credits already, so three more credits isn’t too bad. Plus, I’m the first in my family to go to college, and I just wanted to graduate on time to make my family proud.”

-Adapted from UH System News

Benefits of taking 15 credits

  • By graduating on time, students save on the cost of tuition, books, fees, housing and living expenses.
  • Studies have shown that students at different levels of academic preparation who earn 30 credits per year are more likely to graduate, earn better grades, continue to the next semester, and complete more of their courses. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau data also show that total personal income increases greatly with higher levels of education.
  • Hawaiʻi residents who graduate with a bachelor’s degree earn just over $52,000 on average, which is nearly $20,000 more than someone with only some college experience. Those with an associate’s degree earn on average $10,000 more per year.
  • Students at four-year campuses may save as much as $12,000 in tuition if they take 15 credits per semester because they pay tuition on only the first 12 credits. They can incur less debt, go to graduate school, travel, or start their careers earlier.

Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative

  • The 15 to Finish communications campaign was launched throughout the UH System in spring 2012 to encourage students to earn 15 credits per semester and to raise awareness about the fact that, on average, full-time students take 5.8 years to earn a four-year degree and 5.6 years to earn a two-year degree.
  • The campaign is part of the Hawaiʻi Graduation Initiative with the goal to increase the number of UH graduates by 25 percent by the year 2015.
  • The 15 to Finish campaign was complemented by campus’ efforts to promote enrolling in 15 credits through mandatory advising, new student orientations, first year experiences, predetermined 15 credit schedules for freshmen and the campus’ campaigns of “Do it in Four” or “Do it in Two.”

-Excerpt from UH System News