The Think 30 Campaign, which encourages students to complete 30 credit hours per academic year, is beginning to see signs of a positive trend.
While the campaign is still in its early stages, preliminary numbers show that since its inception, there has been a 4.4 percent increase in full-time, first-time in college students taking 30 or more credit hours per year.
“While these statistics support a positive trend, it is too early to claim whether that Think 30 is the driving force behind it, especially since this population has seen gradual increases in credit hour production over the last few years," Interim Director Jenna Nobili said.
Think 30 began in Spring 2015, when a committee was established between the Student Development and Enrollment Services division, UCF Marketing and the college advising offices to create a graduation campaign for students. The committee's goal was to stress the importance of taking 30 credit hours per year.
The campaign, spearheaded by Nobili, was officially launched the following summer.
“As a nation, America does a great job at providing access to a college education," Nobili said. "However, our nation could improve when it comes to graduating those students, especially in a 4-year time frame for bachelor’s degrees.”
Though Think 30 is UCF’s private campaign, the concept of taking 30 credit hours per year stems from a national campaign known as “15 to Finish,” modeled after the University of Hawaii, which launched the campaign in 2012.
Since then, hundreds of colleges across the nation have followed suit and implemented their own version of the “15 to Finish” campaign.
In UCF’s version, the "30" is based on the fact that most undergraduate degrees require a total of 120 credit hours to complete. Multiply 30 by 4 years and students will complete their undergraduate degrees on time.
“I think it’s realistic without taking summer classes and even more realistic if you decide to take summer classes," said Franki Giordano, a senior advertising and public relations major. "Fifteen hours per semester is hard work but nothing crazy.”
The campaign emphasizes three main principles for first-time in college students: Think Advising, Think Finances and Think Future.
Advisers within the campaign spread awareness through its website, campus-wide marketing outreach and supplying scholarship opportunities.
According to UCF’s Institutional Knowledge Management, 64.3 percent of the 2015-2016 full-time FTIC students took 30 or more credits in their first years of college, compared to 59.9 percent the year before.
Christopher Napoli, sophomore mechanical engineering major, takes anywhere from 12 to 15 credit hours per semester while also working part time, in an attempt to graduate within the four-year time frame.
“They make it so you need to know your major before coming in and then sticking to it or else you are in danger of going over and paying double tuition on credit hours,” Napoli's mother Eileen Guinee-Napoli said.
Additional time in college can begin to add up.
Just an extra year at a four-year university can cost upwards of $68,000, according to Complete College America. In the state of Florida, additional credit hours can result in an Excess Hours Surcharge, doubling the cost of tuition.
Looking at the average student loan debt of college graduates nationally, 69 percent of students in 2014 averaged $28,950 per borrower. The state of Florida averaged about $24,947 per borrower and the Office of Student Financial Assistance reports that in 2015 the average debt for UCF students was $21,824.
In partnership with the SGA, the Think 30 campaign has also implemented The Think 30 Scholarship of $1,000 to students who successfully achieve 30 credit hours the prior year.
Requirements for consideration include a formal application, completion of the credit hours, a submission essay or video in support of the Think 30 campaign and discussion of their graduation goals.
“I would advise students to create a plan for graduation," Nobili said. "Prepare your resume and yourself for your graduation and job search or graduate school in mind.”