ST. LOUIS (AP) – The Missouri Department of Higher Education has launched a new effort aimed at increasing the odds of college students graduating on time and leaving them with less debt.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the state’s “15 to Finish” initiative encourages college students to take 15 credit hours each semester.

The department is teaming up with the national nonprofit Complete College America to provide the state’s two- and four-year colleges with promotional materials and plans to personalize the idea for each campus.

The organization estimates that less than one-third of students in Missouri public schools are taking 15 credit hours every semester. The same research found that nearly 60 percent of students are taking 12 hours a semester, the minimum to receive federal financial aid.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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