Do the math

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What would you do with $50,000? You might have seen this question on whiteboards in the Student Commons this week as part of an ongoing communications effort that encourages VCU students to register for 15 credits per semester.

During fall 2013, the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management launched the “Do the math” campaign to remind students of the need to enroll in at least 15 credit hours each semester in order to complete their degrees in four years.

So where does the $50,000 come in? Well, by graduating in four years, rather than six, students can save as much as $50,000 in college expenses, factoring in things like two extra years of tuition and fees, books and supplies, room, board, meals, transportation, and other daily expenses.

The good news is that our students are doing the math. Eighty-three percent of VCU freshmen signed up for at least 15 credit hours this fall, up from 73 percent last year. Two years ago, before the program launched, that number stood at 61 percent.

The university has also introduced students to tools such as the Schedule Planner and Degree Works, and has offered students tips to manage their academic affairs (i.e., what questions to ask, how often to visit an adviser), all with the goal of helping students graduate on time and ultimately lessen the expense of their education. In addition, we have established partnerships with groups such as Financial Aid TV — to help students and parents with the financial aid application process — and the American Student Assistance organization — to implement SALT®, a free, nonprofit-backed educational program that provides financial literacy to students.

Taking a full course load is no walk in the park, but more and more students are realizing that the payoff can be huge: “down payment for a house,” “pay my mom’s medical bills,” “buy a car” – these were just some of the students’ answers to the $50,000 question posed to them earlier this week. Students come first at VCU, and through the “Do the math” campaign and its related efforts, we are working hard to keep students on track and help them take control of their futures, financially and beyond.