Boost Student Credit Hours through Strategic Course Scheduling & Reporting Analytics
Students need to take 30 credits per year to graduate on time yet the majority of college students do not do so in their first year. To increase student credit hours and improve on-time graduation rates, institutions should consider minimize conflicts in the course schedule, define and communicate pathways for on-time completion, and use data to identify opportunities to boost student credit hours.
The number of credit hours students take each term constitutes a major determinant of their ability to graduate on-time. While this may seem obvious to the casual observer, the reality is more complex. According to Complete College America, students at most institutions need to take 30 credits per year to graduate on time. Yet, the majority of college students do not take the 30 credits in their first year need to stay on track for on-time completion.
In order to improve on-time graduation rates, it is crucial for institutions to identify how they can help boost their students' credit hours. Explore the three strategies below to leverage strategic course scheduling and reporting analytics to increase student credit hours.
Consider students needs when building a course schedule to minimize conflicts
Build a student-centric schedule by not only focusing on which courses to offer, but also when to offer them. Take students’ constraints into account when building a schedule, including their non-academic obligations, such as jobs or care giving responsibilities.
Additionally, use standard meeting patterns to give students a sense of what their schedule might look like before registration is open to allow them to plan around their other responsibilities. With minimized time conflicts, your students will be able to take more credits each term and make faster progress towards degree completion.
“75% of today’s students are juggling some combination of families, jobs, and school while commuting to class; according to the U.S. Department of Education, only a quarter go full-time, attend residential colleges, and have most of their bills paid by their parents.” - Complete College America, Time is the Enemy
Define and communicate pathways that lead to on-time completion
Communicate early and often to students what courses they need to take to complete their degree. If possible, create well defined pathways with recommendations on which courses to take each term. In academic plans, try not to focus on the minimum number of credits needed to be considered full-time — rather, advise students to maximize their credit hours to stay on track for on-time completion.
“The vast majority of college students aren’t taking the credits needed to graduate on time, despite research showing the significant benefits of doing so – including better academic performance, higher retention rates and the increased likelihood of completion.” - Complete College America, 15 to Finish
Use data to identify trends and opportunities to boost student credit hours
Examine historical trends to inform course scheduling and degree pathways. Identify how and why students who didn’t graduate on time deviated from the recommended course of study. Did these students share a set of constraints that prohibits them from taking courses at certain times? Which academic programs see lower completion rates? Which groups of students are less likely to complete their programs on-time?
Break down metrics by degree to identify which programs may need to be re-evaluates. Ask the following questions:
- How much time does it take students to complete a program on average?
- Which programs have the longest time to degree completion?
- What is the average number of student credit hours needed to complete each degree? How does this vary for programs with large numbers of transfer students or students with prior learning credits?