Arkansas Department of Higher Education, Complete College America Launch Effort to Boost On-Time Completion and Reduce Student Loan Debt

The Arkansas Department of Higher Education and Complete College America gathered institutional leaders today to launch the state’s 15 to Finish initiative - an effort designed to boost on-time completion rates and reduce student loan debt. The initiative provides students with critical information about credit accumulation, empowering them to make better-informed decisions about their academic journey.

Data show that most full-time American college students do not graduate on time – just 41% of full-time students at four-year, flagship institutions and 20% at four-year, non-flagship institutions graduate in four years; 5% of full-time students at two-year institutions graduate in two years (CCA Data Collection). Additionally, most full-time students are not earning the 30 credits needed each academic year to graduate on time.

While not all students will be able to take 15 credits per semester, providing information about what it takes to graduate on time ensures students are making informed decisions about course loads, their time to degree and the costs associated with their academic pathway.

Arkansas’ 15 to Finish campaign will highlight the consequences of graduating late – including increased loan debt and lost wages – and encourages students to take at least 15 credits per semester or 30 credits per year (including summers) to ensure on-time completion. The campaign also highlights the fact that students who take at least 15 credits per semester are not only more likely to complete, they do better academically and are more likely to be retained year over year.

Results from around the country show that many more students could be taking the credits needed to graduate on time. The University of Hawai’i System – where 15 to Finish originated – has doubled the percentage of first-time freshmen who enroll in 15 or more credits in their first semester. Since launching the initiative at its urban campus, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has increased the percentage of first-time, full-time students taking 15 credits from 28% in 2012 to 69% in 2016.

“There’s a glaring disconnect in American higher education: Most students tell us they want to graduate on time, but too few finish enough college courses each year – including summers – to do so,” said Complete College America President Tom Sugar. “Our work with Arkansas will empower institutions to help more students accomplish more college credits each year, saving themselves and their families millions of dollars and making the dream of a college degree much more likely.”

Ann Clemmer, Senior Associate Director with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education said “The 15 to Finish campaign is an educational effort to remind and encourage students that if they want to complete college on time, they need to take 30 hours a year. There has been some confusion for students as full-time status is defined across the country as 12 hours per semester. While 12 hours will remain a full-time designation, a student who only completes the 12 hours required of them, and doesn’t take classes in the summer will spend five years to finish a four- year degree. We hope that by having the “15 to Finish” campaign here in Arkansas we can change the conversation and see more students able to graduate on time and enter the work force sooner.”

You can view the Arkansas 15 to Finish campaign video here.

About the Arkansas Department of Higher Education

The mission of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education is to advocate for higher education; to promote a coordinated system of higher education in the state; and to assist each of the publicly and locally supported institutions of higher education in the state in improving the delivery of higher education services to the citizens of Arkansas.

About Complete College America

Established in 2009, Complete College America is a national nonprofit with a single mission: to work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations. For more information, visit our website (

Provided By Arkansas Department of Higher Education