23. January 2016 08:37
I want to focus on one policy story this week. This is President Obama's push on Pell. Two components include return of summer Pell eligibility and a $300 bonus for enrolling in 15 credits or more. Summer Pell makes year-round enrollment possible for many students who need it to stay on track. The federal "15 to Finish" program is about improving and accelerating student completion. While I am a big advocate of making sure students are aware 12 credits per term are a minimal standard for full-time enrollment and 15 credits per term are needed to complete a four-year degree in four years or a two-year degree in two years, I do recognize that not everyone is ready for 15 credits enrollment. The data seem clear though: at public four-years, 74% of students taking 15 credits or greater complete a degree within six years compared to a 63% completion rate for students enrolling in 12 to 14.5 credits.
There are caveats to this. For some students, credit load is a function of overall affordability, particularly of their flexible or indirect costs such as textbooks and commuting costs. Also, not every class is three credits and sometimes schedules stack in such a way that a student's choice is not between 12 and 15, but between 14 and 17. Further, students who work outside of school may be better off with a more balanced schedule. Sara Goldrick-Rab has studied these issues and written about them. I encourage you to look at her work and that of others as often the data suggest a simpler policy recommendation than what's actually required.
The bottom line is that effort is important, but that reasoned and informed levels of effort are probably more important.