Montana State University has succeeded in encouraging more students to take on more intense class loads, according to new university data.
For the past four years, Montana State has encouraged students to take more intense class loads so as to decrease the time to graduation and decrease the cost of their education.
Known as the “Freshman 15” campaign, the effort has been largely based on educating students and their families that there is no additional tuition cost for any credits above the first 12 credits each semester. This means students pay the same tuition for 15, 18 or 21 credits as they pay for the basic 12 credits. For Montana residents, the maximum tuition cost per semester at MSU is $2,665 regardless of how many more credits a student takes after the first 12.
MSU administrators frequently refer to the “Freshman 15” campaign -- a play on words for the common phrase describing the 15 pounds students often feel they gain when they first come to college -- as encouraging students to add academic weight instead. And while marketed heavily to freshman, the benefits are available to all students.
“When students start regularly taking 15 credits per semester there are huge benefits to them and their families,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “Only by regularly taking 15 credits per semester can a student have a chance of graduating in four years. Graduating in four years, as opposed to five or six years, can save students and their families thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and accompanying room, board and other costs.”
Cruzado inaugurated the “Freshman 15” campaign four years ago. The advising and education campaign has dramatically increased the percentage of freshman taking 15 credits or more from 50 percent in 2011 to 64 percent this fall.
The message has also gotten through to the rest of MSU’s undergraduates: In 2011, 46 percent of all undergraduates were taking 15 or more credits. This fall that has grown to 55 percent of all undergraduates taking 15 or more credits.
MSU is not unique in offering tuition-free credits past the first 12. It is status quo for all the campuses of the Montana University System and has long been referred to as the “flat spot,” meaning that the tuition cost was flat after the first 12 credits.
“The Montana University System has been offering this special incentive to students for decades,” Cruzado said. “But somewhere along the line it became more acceptable to take 12 credits and the common knowledge of this great deal got lost. At MSU we simply started making sure students knew about it and knew how it could help them save money.”
The university also has been educating students on the long-term benefits of graduating in four years as opposed to five or six.
“By graduating in four years, a student can enter the workforce one to two years earlier. While that is a benefit, the biggest benefit comes at the end of their careers when they are most likely to be at their highest earning potential. Basically, a student who graduates in four years will reach his or her highest earning potential two years earlier – the financial benefit of that can be astronomical,” Cruzado said.
Additionally, MSU has made finding a credit-rich schedule for entering students easier this year with CatCourse, an online scheduling tool that searches all of the course combinations that fit a student’s schedule, like an airline travel booking tool.
“Implementation of CatCourse helps all students – even the very last to register – find a schedule that incorporates the full Freshman 15 and get them started on track and on time for graduation,” said David Singel, MSU associate provost.
Tracy Ellig, executive director MSU Communications, (406) 994-5607 or email@example.com
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