A report from Complete College America reveals that only 19 percent of students attending public colleges full-time earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. A new initiative at Northwest Missouri State University (Northwest) is aggressively working to reverse that trend.
Launched in fall 2018, Complete 30 is a school-wide effort to help students graduate on time and is loosely based on Complete College America’s 15 to Finish program. Students strive to complete 30 credit hours every academic year, spanning fall, spring, and summer sessions.
“All of our students are encouraged to participate, but we also understand that the academic journey for each student is different,” says Allison Hoffmann, director, academic success and retention at Northwest. “We take a very personalized approach to student success and the same can be said for participation in Complete 30.”
Flexibility is built into Complete 30, allowing students to progress at their own pace. For example, one student could complete 15 credits per semester, while another student might accumulate 15 credits in the fall, but only 12 in the spring. Rather than let students fall behind and possibly lose their momentum, academic advisors would steer the student to pick up the additional three credits over the summer.
Equidistant from Des Moines, Omaha, and Kansas City, Northwest attracts a lot of students from rural communities, including many first-generation college students. Some may have to interrupt their schooling or be unable to take a full course load to help out on the family farm or care for a family member, so the involvement of academic advisors is key.
Advisors meet with students at least once per term, and sometimes more. They invest time and effort in getting to know students and working with them to come up with a personalized success plan that may need to be adjusted over time to meet students’ changing circumstances and keep them on track to graduate.