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Tennessee Gov. Wants “15-To-Finish”

Tennessee’s “Promise” program offering free tuition to community college students may receive significant modification if the outgoing governor gets his way, as reported by Ashley Smith, in Inside Higher Ed.

During his final State of the State address this week, Gov. Bill Haslam introduced a controversial change to the state’s widely heralded scholarship. Graduation rates for community colleges in Tennessee remain low despite the program of free tuition.

The Complete to Compete: Complete College Tennessee Act of 2018 would require freshmen enrolling in 2019 to complete 30 credit hours of courses in 12 months or risk losing a portion of their Promise scholarship. The “30-in-12” requirement would require the community and technical colleges to create “ready-made” structured schedules that build in the 30 hours.

The proposal reflects research indicating that the more semester hours a student takes, the more likely he or she will graduate. Many authorities have called for programs such as “15-to-finish” to build into the daily schedule of students 15 semester hours each term.

Community college leaders are concerned that programs requiring or financially rewarding full-time enrollment leaves out those students who simply can’t attend full-time, due to jobs or family situations. It’s also possible that the favorable statistics for full-time students reflect higher incomes and parental educational levels. The odds may be in their favor before they enroll.

All the same, when we advise students, encouraging them to dial up their load, instead of recommending fewer courses, may be the best approach, research indicates. Obviously each case is different.

From the article:

The initiative is about the state making strides to reach its goal of having 55 percent of adults holding a degree or certificate by 2025. An end-of-the-year report on the state’s retention and completion rates revealed that three-year community college graduation rates remain relatively low, averaging 20 percent in 2016.

However, initiatives that encourage community college students to attend full-time — also known as 15 to Finish — in order to retain scholarships and grants are controversial. Critics argue that these full-time requirements aren’t feasible for students who work, have families or are less academically prepared. Advocates of such initiatives, however, point to research that shows the more credits a student takes, the faster they reach graduation with little or no debt.

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