September 1, 2016
Posed to: John Delaney, President, University of North Florida
Why was the decision to require UNF scholarship recipients to take 15 credits per semester made, seemingly, without faculty input? This decision seems like it will have many negative consequences such as: students attending other universities instead of UNF, students taking heavier course loads than they can handle well, especially if 4 credit courses or labs are involved.
The decision to require students to complete 15 hours in fall and spring terms, or 30 hours over fall, spring and summer is based on different pieces of data.
The first of these was watching the effects a similar program had at the University of South Florida. When South Florida’s graduation rates took a dramatic increase a few years ago we began to explore how they accomplished this. In speaking to various representatives from USF, each of them emphasized a cultural shift on the campus – 15 credit hours per term became the new norm. USF advisors were recommending 15 hours per term for students across the campus, with some exceptions. Students were becoming committed to graduating in four years.
After exploring the change at USF, Jay Coleman compared second-year retention rates for UNF students who took 15 hours their first semester compared to those who took 12 hours in their first term. He determined that those taking 15 hours showed higher second year retention rates.
The third set of data we considered were the additional expenses added and the income lost to the student by slowing down degree completion.
In making the change we mandated it for students receiving institutional grants and scholarships. At the same time, we provided a review process for exceptions.
As to the question of faculty input, since coming to UNF I was never made aware that faculty input was required in establishing criteria for student scholarships. Over the past few years we have worked closely with Enrollment Services to grow and reframe scholarships to meet with the mission of the university, taking into consideration how much money was likely to attract students and provide them with the support they needed to succeed at UNF.
When we made this most recent changes to our scholarship programs we worked closely with academic programs where students would be unable to comply with the requirements we set forth. It is also important to remember that these rules don’t affect any scholarship programs funded by other sources.
It is our hope, however, to see as many students enrolled in 15 hour per term or 30 hours per year, when possible. Making 15 the norm is likely to have several positive effects on our students and the nature and reputation of the institution. It may also affect future university funding.
John A. Delaney