How Full-Time are “Full-Time” Students? asks a Complete College America a policy brief. Not very. Students who take 12 units a term are considered full-time — they’re eligible for full federal aid — but 15 credits are needed to stay on track for graduation.
Four percent of students seeking two-year degrees graduate in two years the report points out. For students seeking four-year degrees, the on-time graduation rate is 19 percent.
Only 29 percent of community college students and 50 percent of four-year students are taking 15 or more credits per semester. That means many students — even those who think they’re full-timers — will need an extra year or two to complete a degree, even if they choose all the right classes and pass every one.
The University of Hawaii’s 15 to Finish campaign, which raises awareness about the advantages of truly full-time enrollment, has raised the number of truly full-time students. Retention rates are up 22 percent.
Complete College America also is advocating for “banded” tuition. That would ensure that taking 15 credits per semester costs no more than 12.
In addition, states should cap credits needed for degrees at 60 for an associate degree and 120 for a bachelor’s, the group suggests.