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MSU campaign touts timely degree

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

Murray State University along with colleges throughout the state are ramping up an emphasis on the importance of completing a post-secondary education in four years.

The statewide "15 to Finish" campaign, modeled after a similar program instituted in Hawaii, was officially launched in January. The program started by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has been instituted in every public four-year college in Kentucky, according to Catherine Sivills, Murray State assistant vice president of communication.

The initiative focuses on the positive results associated with full-time students taking and completing 15-credit schedules each semester with the goal of graduation in four years. She said the benefits for students and parents are two-fold, decreasing the expense and amount of student loan debt, and placing graduates into the workforce faster.

"The statistics show that the quicker a student completes college, the easier it is for them to get a job," Sivills said. "The longer it takes a student to graduate, the harder it is to finish, because life happens."

She said another critical aspect of the campaign is educating parents, specifically those of first-generation college students, about the number of hours required per semester for a student to finish on time. To receive an undergraduate diploma in four years at Murray State, students must take 15 hours per semester unless they plan to take summer classes or an overload during another semester.

Murray State has emphasized the ongoing program through on-campus academic advisers who reiterate the information and through summer orientation literature that outlines how students should register for courses, according to Sivills.

"We are sensitive to the economic impact on families to send their children to college," she said. "We want our students to know that you can do it in four years and then you're ahead of the game."

Harris Bivin, Murray State senior advertising major and four-year football center who will graduate in May, said the key to his success at juggling many different obligations is staying academically focused every day.

"It was always my goal to finish on time," he said. "When I wasn't in class, I was on the field. It's hard to do, but can be done."

Bivin, who hired an NFL agent to purse a professional career, took full semester course loads when he could and took summer class to make his dream a reality. He said if his athletic career doesn't work out, he plans to rely on the education he received at Murray State to work in advertising in New York City.

"The key is time management and just showing up to class every day, being on time and focused," he said.

To learn more about the campaign, visit http://15tofinishky.org/.

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