Parallel programs to begin

by Amy Olson

Earning a degree from the University could get a little simpler with the changeover to semesters.
Members of the Board of Regents’ Faculty, Staff & Student Affairs committee discussed changes to the University’s graduation and course requirements on Thursday. The new policies were passed by the full board last year and will go into effect Sept. 1.
The changes will eliminate red tape for students by adopting University-wide policies regarding admission and registration to academic probation and requirements for making the dean’s list.
University officials hope students will be able to concentrate on getting more out of their classes instead of figuring out rules and regulations as a result of the changes. Associate Vice President Robert Kvavik said the measure will allow advisers to help students choose a major instead of figuring out which rules and regulations apply to them.
The new policies will also ease the transfer between colleges and streamline the way students are admitted to the Twin Cities campus’ 19 colleges, said Peter Zetterberg, director of Institutional Research and Reporting.
Under the current system, the University has 19 separate processes for admission to its colleges; the new admissions policy will consolidate them into one process.
Those separate policies governing admission and graduation arose from each college publishing its own undergraduate catalog, said Laura Koch, associate director of semesters. Starting with the 1999-2000 academic year, all undergraduate students will use the same catalog.
The changes will also eliminate or reduce second-tier requirements — such as minimum grade point averages — for getting accepted into major programs, Koch said. The new policy will unify graduation requirements, including the total number of credits needed to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Other changes include adopting a University-wide cap on the number of credits students can take each quarter and how students are admitted to courses with limited enrollments.
Variations in academic policies have been a problem under the quarter system, but the problem will be exacerbated under the new, less-flexible semester system, Zetterberg said.
While the changes are intended to make it easier for students to navigate the University’s bureaucracy, they will also ease administrators’ workload. Since each college’s deans list is calculated using a separate cut-off, administrators have to compile 19 separate lists, Zetterberg said.
After the new policy goes into effect, all undergraduate students will need to earn a 3.67 semester grade point average to earn the honor.
The semester conversion itself will modify some of liberal education requirements, said Linda Ellinger, assistant to the vice provost for undergraduate education.
The University now requires all students to take two quarters of science classes with a laboratory. The semester plan will require students to take one year — which is two semesters — of science courses with lab work. Each college will also revamp classes to meet the University’s new writing-intensive requirement.
In addition to its altered calendar, the University will also change its schedule. Next fall, courses on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses will begin at staggered intervals, Zetterberg said.