Semesters conversion could

by Heather Fors

The whims of students registering for semester classes next fall could create serious financial losses in the millions of dollars for the University.
The University could lose $3 million in state funding if the number of students enrolled in 15 or more credits drops by 2 percent. Additionally, if each student currently enrolled were to take one less credit after the conversion, the school could lose as much as $6 million in tuition.
Other factors in the fiscal dilemma — a large drop in enrollment figures in University College, as well as from graduating students escaping the conversion confusion — are also at work. But administrators are focusing on the possible losses in state and tuition money.
Students must take 15 credits per semester to graduate in four years and to keep up current levels of funding. In a semester system, three-credit classes are the most common, which means students must enroll in five classes every semester.
Administrators like Laura Koch, associate director for semesters, are theorizing that many students taking three or four classes per quarter won’t want to enroll in a fifth in the fall.
But the extra class required under the semester system will bring students’ workloads up to what they are used to under quarters, said Peter Zetterberg, director of the Office of Planning and Analysis for the University.
He explained that the workload in each course will drop because semesters are five weeks longer than quarters. The theory is that professors will spread the same amount of work over a longer period of time, which means students will have time to take a fifth course.
To graduate in four years, students should take 30 credits per year, split into 15 per semester. It would then only take 120 credits to graduate as opposed to 180 credits under the quarter system.
Officials don’t want to upset the steady increase in the number of students graduating within four or five years. Prolonging the college experience — which is what they are concerned will happen under the semester system — makes officials a bit anxious.
“The longer it takes to earn your degree, the better the chances you won’t do it,” Zetterberg said.
Using knowledge from one class to the next is the advantage of taking a full course load, he said.
“There’s a certain intensity to your educational experience here that you get when you’re taking four or five classes at a time,” Zetterberg said, adding that the intense course load is the heart of the college experience.
But that intensity might be lost in the shuffle if the conversion creates large financial losses, said Steven Rosenstone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Officials are concerned that if the revenue dries up, there won’t be enough money to continue supplementing programs with new faculty, reduced class sizes and additional computer labs and classes.
Essentially, when students don’t get to take advantage of their education, they’re hurting the entire school.
“That would be a double hit for our students,” Rosenstone said. “We just can’t afford to get this wrong.”