USHE works to improve college completion rates

College educated citizens make Utah’s economy stronger. The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) wants to make sure that every student can get a meaningful credential in a timely manner. That means taking enough credits each semester, taking the right classes, and building upon strong academic preparation in high school. USHE recently released a report, College Completion in Utahwhich highlights what’s being done to increase Utah’s completion rate.

completion statsIn 2013, the Board of Regents passed a College Completion Resolution, outlining five proven initiatives based in research and best practices and designed to help Utah students achieve their goals. These include the following five initiatives:

1.) 15 to Finish

In June 2013, USHE launched the 15 to Finish campaign. This campaign encourages students to take at least 15 credits per semester in order to graduate on time. This campaign targets the 37% of USHE students who take 12-14 credits per semester, and could cut a year off of their time to graduation by just taking one more class per semester.

About 1 in 3 USHE students take 12-14 credits per semester

2.) Plateau tuition

Seven of the eight USHE colleges and universities have instituted plateau tuition, with an emphasis on 12 to 15 credits. That one extra class adds up to a free year of college. USHE institutions have plateau tuition in the following ranges:

  • Utah State University: 12-18 credits
  • Weber State University: 11-18 credits
  • Southern Utah University: 10-18 credits
  • Snow College: 10-20 credits
  • Dixie State University: 12-20 credits
  • Utah Valley University: 12-18 credits
  • Salt Lake Community College: 12-18 credits

3.) Math

Approximately 40% of college students are placed in remedial courses. USHE institutions are devising innovative ways to help students with math and to encourage students to take math as soon as they arrive on campus, rather than waiting. Further details on the importance of math were recently released in USHE’s High School Feedback Reports.


In spring 2014, USHE published high school math recommendations, detailing which math courses would best prepare high school students for college. These include completing Utah high school graduation requirements and taking four years of progressive math, along with specific recommended courses for students headed for a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) major.

4.) Graduation maps

Students have a dizzying array of options when they register for courses, and the course catalog may be overwhelming. Graduation maps help students make sense of requirements to stay on track to finish their degrees on time and help institutions know which courses to offer when.

grad maps

5.) Reverse transfer/stackable credentials

Students who are awarded an associate degree are more likely to stay in school and finish a four-year degree program, so Utah is making associate degrees a priority. Students can earn an associate degree on their way to a bachelor’s degree, and students who transfer with enough credits can also earn their associate degree at a two-year college, even after transferring, through reverse transfer.

Once a student completes a credential, that shouldn’t be the end. USHE institutions are working to ensure that all certificates can count or “stack” toward an associate degree, and all AA/AS degrees also “stack” with four-year degrees.

stackable creds

USHE Completion grants and Complete College Utah

USHE awarded completion grants to support and encourage institutional work in increasing completion rates on their campuses. Each utilized one or more of the five key strategies in the USHE Completion Initiative. For more detailed information on what completion grants were utilized for, see College Completion in Utah.

Last Friday, December 4, USHE institutional representatives gathered to discuss progress on their three- and five-year completion goals in each category, as well as give updates on their completion grants. USHE hosts Complete College Utah meetings twice per year in order to keep the statewide focus on the Completion Initiatives.

Media Inquiries

Trisha Dugovic
Communications Director