Campaign goal: Get more Nevada college students to take full course loads

CARSON CITY — A new campaign to encourage Nevada college students to take a full course load each semester to help them earn degrees more quickly was adopted Thursday by the Board of Regents.

The vote by the board, meeting in Elko, was unanimous.

The 15 to Finish Campaign is based on the premise that students who take a full load of courses are more likely to be successful and graduate.

The program will gear up this fall with a goal of seeing a first impact in the fall 2014 semester. A report on the effectiveness of the campaign will be made to the board in March 2015.

The campaign will involve changes to student orientation programs and a $50,000 media campaign funded through the chancellor’s office.

It is based on a similar program implemented at the University of Hawaii System, but there are additional challenges to Nevada’s program. Hawai’i institutions have a tuition cap, for example, that encourages students to take more classes because there is no additional cost.

The system announced in the fall of 2012 that the campaign did produce some success. At the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus, for example, 55.5 percent of first-time freshmen signed up for 15 or more credits, a 17.2 percentage point increase from the previous year.

Crystal Abba, vice chancellor of academic and student affairs, said another issue is that the Gov. Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship program for qualified Nevada high school graduates is limited to 12 credits. The Nevada System of Higher Education will seek a change to the program from the Legislature to provide assistance for up to 15 units to promote the campaign, she said.

Information provided to the board showed that the graduation rate at Nevada two-year schools is only 2.6 percent for students taking fewer than 12 credits compared to 22.6 percent for those taking 15 credits or more. At the four-year level, the numbers are 21 percent and 58.1 percent, respectively.

Abba acknowledged that making sure students can sign up for the classes they need to graduate will be critical to the success of the campaign.

Regent Ron Knecht questioned how the success of the campaign will be measured and who will be accountable. He asked if the program is really ready to be implemented.

Chancellor Dan Klaich said the higher education system has been focusing on program completion and graduation for several years. This is another piece of that plan, he said.

“This seems to me absolutely consistent with everything you’ve been talking about and we’re trying to up the ante on the drumbeat here,” Klaich said.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801