15 Credit Course Loads Increase Odds of Graduation

Inside Higher Ed logo

A new study by EAB indicates that students who take 15 credits their first semester of their first year were more likely to continue and also to receive better grades.  (Please note the study refers to full-time students, not part-time students.)

The study of 1.3 million full-time students at 137 colleges.  It showed students with 15 credits were 19 percent more likely to graduate in 4 years than their peers.  They also examined a subset of 20,000 students who were eligible for Pell grants and found the trend was true for them as well.

According to the study, “an increased credit load is unlikely to be detrimental for students at any academic level, challenging a common concern that taking more classes is a bad idea for struggling students.”  To the contrary, “the least-prepared students were more likely to persist and get better grades if they took a few extra credits their first term.”

EAB’s main findings were:

  1. We confirm that students who average 15+ credits across their first year end the year with higher GPSs and higher retention rates than their full-time peers who take fewer credits.
  2. Students at all levels of academic achievement benefit from taking 15+ credits.
  3. Low-income students also benefit from taking 15+ credits.
  4. Early course-taking behaviors seem to be habit-forming.

Many of the schools studied have followed the lead of the University of Hawaii, which was the first to implement the “15 to Finish” messaging strategy.

Source: Why even “C” students should consider taking 15 credits their first semester.


Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, heads runs an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.

Please follow and like us: