One year later, U community pleased with semester change

by Patrick Hayes

One year after the University drastically changed its format from quarters to semesters, students, professors and administrators have regarded the transition as relatively smooth and have expressed optimism for the future of the new system.
The University Board of Regents approved the switch to semesters in 1995 after former University President Nils Hasselmo recommended the change to make the University more like its Midwest counterparts.
Under the conversion to semesters, the average University student credit load dropped slightly from 13.9 in 1998 to 13.2 in 1999.
Executive Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Craig Swan said the drop was as expected.
“Every time people move to semesters there have been a drop in credit loads,” he said.
Swan also noted the change from four-credit to three-credit courses under semesters as a contributor to the drop in credit loads.
Even though University students had smaller credit loads, the drop was less than those of other universities that have converted from quarters to semesters, said Peter Zetterberg, University director of institutional research and reporting.
Although graduation data from last year is not complete, University officials think fewer students graduated during the last school year than the 1998-99 school year.
During the last year of quarters, the University experienced an all-time four-campus graduation rate high. About 11,200 students graduated, primarily because so many students wanted to graduate under the quarter system, Zetterberg said. The number of graduates for the 1999-2000 school year is expected to be about 10,500 when the data is complete, he added.
Zetterberg was unable to say whether student GPAs dropped under the semester system, but he said he wouldn’t have expected them to.
“I don’t know why changing the calendar would change the way faculty grade students,” Zetterberg said.
Institute of Technology Associate Dean Peter Hudleston said he heard mostly positive things about the semester conversion.
Hudleston said professors liked the semester system because they had more time to develop course material.
For the most part things went smoothly; however, some classes that were compressed into one semester became a little cramped, Hudleston said.
“It’ll take a year or two to shake down entirely any of these problems. But I would think this year most of them will be resolved,” he added. Hudleston also said grades were not affected.
While University senior Nate Hergerman’s grades were not affected by the semester conversion, he preferred the shorter format of quarters.
“I thought teachers probably did more work for less credits,” he said.
However, Sarah Jerstaz, a second-year psychology graduate student, said the longer format of semester worked better.
Jerstaz took statistics classes under the quarter system and the semester system and found the extra time under semesters helped her learn more.
“I thought the quarter system seemed a little rushed,” she said. “(Under semesters) I felt we had more time to learn the material.”

Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at [email protected]