UW System Launches "15 to Finish" Campaign

Published: June 25, 2019

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MADISON, Wis.—UW System is promoting the "15 to Finish Campaign," encouraging students to take 15 credits each semester. The idea behind the incentive is that by taking 15 credits each semester or 30 credits per year, makes a student more likely to stay on track and graduate on time.

“We want to make sure that students graduate, and graduate on time,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “Our ’15 to Finish’ campaign is providing students the information they need to help them accomplish those goals.”

It’s just one of several student success strategies being employed by the System, Cross said.

Most university bachelor’s programs require 120 credits to graduate. UW-Parkside is no exception. That’s an average of 30 credits per year, or 15 credits per semester. Yet, students are considered full-time when taking 12 or more credits for tuition and financial aid purposes. With the “15 to Finish” campaign, UW System officials are reinforcing the idea to students that being a full-time student doesn’t necessarily mean graduating on time. 

The campaign is rolling out on System campuses this summer during orientation sessions for incoming freshmen. In the fall, digital ads, posters, and other media will target students already enrolled. 

Of course, a 15-credit course load each semester is not for everyone. For some students, it makes more logistical, financial, or personal sense to take fewer than 15 credits or enroll as a part-time student. That is especially true for parents, students who work, etc. However, this campaign is designed to allow students to make informed decisions after consulting with their academic advisors and to develop a plan for success that works for them. Finishing school "on time" will mean saving time and money overall.

Hundreds of other institutions across the country have demonstrated success in using a “15 to Finish” model. The University of Hawai’i System, a pioneer in the movement, found that since their campaign started in 2012 the percentage of first-time freshmen who took 15 or more credits in their first semester doubled and four-year graduation rates increased eight percentage points.

“We’re eager to share with students how a 15-credit semester can help them maintain momentum toward graduation and boost their academic success,” said Angie Kellogg, senior academic planner in the UW System Office of Student Success, who is leading the initiative.

UW System data show that about 58 percent of students took 15 or more credits in their first semester, and 54 percent took 30 or more credits in their first year. Often, taking 15 credits means enrolling in just one additional course per semester.

The data also show that students who took 30 credits or more in their first year are more likely to return – 90 percent compared to 85 percent for those taking fewer than 30 credits. They are also considerably more likely to graduate – 73 percent in six years compared to 64 percent of those taking fewer than 30 credits.

Underrepresented minorities, Pell grant recipients, first-generation students, and students scoring 25 or lower on the ACT especially benefit from taking 30 credits in their first two semesters, the data show.

Students and families can learn more at the website below:

15 to Finish

More information can be found here:

UW System 15 to Finish


The University of Wisconsin System serves more than 170,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. More than 80 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System institutions also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.

Mark Pitsch, UW System

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