Home » News » News Item

April 19, 2017

New report shows Missouri students are completing more credit hours their first year in college
Freshmen earning 30 plus credit hours are more likely to finish a degree

The number of credit hours Missouri students are earning their freshman year in college is on the rise, according to a new report from the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Students who graduated in 2015 from a public high school in Missouri and enrolled full-time in a public college or university in the state earned an average of 32.6 credit hours, an increase of nearly two credit hours since 2013.

That number is significant, higher education officials say, because students who complete at least 30 credit hours their freshman year are more likely to finish a degree. If they continue that pace, they potentially can save thousands of dollars in college costs by graduating on time.

“Students who get off to a strong start in college are more likely to graduate and fully benefit from the time and money they have invested in their education,” said Zora Mulligan, Missouri commissioner of higher education.

Nationwide, full-time employees with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of just over $59,100 in 2015, while workers with an associate degree earned about $41,500, the U.S. Department of Labor reports. That compares to $38,400 for workers who completed some college credit but did not finish a degree and includes students who earned a certificate.

Degree attainment also impacts unemployment rates – 2.8 percent for a bachelor’s degree, 3.8 percent for an associate degree, and 5 percent for some college but no degree.

Nearly 80 percent of Missouri students who complete 30 or more credit hours their freshman year in college receive a bachelor’s degree, compared to 69 percent of students who earn 24 to 29 credit hours, according to Complete College America, a national organization working to increase the number of students who finish a degree.

At Missouri’s two-year colleges, about 62 percent of freshmen who completed 30 or more credits finished an associate degree, compared to 43 percent who earned 24 to 29 credit hours.

Missouri recently launched a program to encourage students to complete an average of 15 or more credit hours a semester – for a total of 30 plus hours per year – to earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor’s degree in four years.

The goal of the 15 to Finish program is to increase degree completion and reduce college costs.

An extra year in school can total more than $50,000 in tuition, fees, books, room and board and the wages students would have earned if they had graduated and entered the workforce full time. Graduating on time also can reduce the amount of money students borrow to pay college expenses.

The Missouri High School Graduates Report is produced annually to provide information about the academic progress of the state’s high school graduates who enroll full-time at Missouri’s public colleges and universities.