As Ohio colleges prepare to make the transition to a semester-based system, students and faculty across the state make adjustments.
by David Streicher, ‘13
In Autumn 2012, 17 Ohio colleges will change their class schedules, transitioning from quarters to semesters. This change in course partitioning has been three years in the making under the Calendar Conversion program, an attempt to make public colleges and universities in Ohio meet the national standard of semester division. Among the schools making the switch are Columbus State Community College, Ohio University and The Ohio State University.
The change was initiated in order to support the Strategic Plan for Higher Education, first introduced in March 2008 by then Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents Eric Fingerhut . The board is a nine-member advisory committee whose mission is to report on the state of higher-level education in Ohio. According to Directive 2008-014, the goal of this initiative was to make college-level education in Ohio more accessible, encourage graduates to remain in Ohio after earning degrees, and improve higher education as a driver of the state economy. Calendar Conversion will aim to “increase student transfer, mobility, student success, system-wide efficiencies, cost savings, and increase the integration of the University System of Ohio,” according to the Ohio Board of Regents’ web site.
“We simply had to work within this parameter,” said David Wayne, the Media Relations Coordinator for Columbus State Community College. “School schedules and class schedules had to be reworked. For example, under the quarter system you might have History 101, 202, and 303, one for each quarter. These might be combined into a new history 101 and 202 , for each semester.”
For students currently attending any of the 17 higher education institutions, the change means significant adjustments to their course schedules and potential workloads. In many schools, new standards have been made to convert credits from the quarter system to the semester system. In its “q2s” online brochure, Ohio University states that the credit earned from previous classes under the quarter system will now be worth two-thirds that amount to match the lower required number of hours for graduation.
Most of the schools making the transition are experiencing similar adjustments. Blake Haxton, a 2009 UA alum and now a rising senior at OSU, expressed mixed feelings for the change.
“On a weekly basis, scheduling is entirely different,” he said. “We have a lot more classes instead of longer classes. I have twice the number of classes, but the same amount of work. … Also, I know a lot of people had a 10-week class that was not sufficient for a semester’s worth of credit, so they had to take an additional five-week class to catch up. But they don’t get any additional credit.”
Haxton goes on to say that the transition is further complicating the ability for seniors to apply for internships in summer 2012, since the overlap between the old and new systems shortens the summer.
“Because a lot of companies, when they schedule internships, they do them in two tiers” He says. “You were allowed to take your exams a week early if you had an internship that was starting during the normal exam week. It’s particularly difficult for rising seniors because that’s the summer you really want to get an internship to get a job.”
To ease the transition, several schools have created programs to aid students in scheduling classes to fit the new course system. “Take More to be Sure” is the campaign currently running at Columbus State University, with detailed instructions for students posted on the school website. At Ohio University, there is the Transition Degree Completion Plan.
“This is a chance for students to meet with their counselors to map out the rest of their four years to graduate in the same amount of time” said Angela Lash, Assistant Director of the Alan Student Help Center. “They’ll have time to meet and make their degree plan so they won’t be disadvantaged.”
For some students already studying at affected universities, the change poses an inconvenience. Sam Randolf, a UA alum soon entering his sophomore year at OSU, expresses concern over the new calendar.
“It cuts down the amount of work I can do over the summer, and I’ll have to juggle more classes during the school year,” he said. “I haven’t gotten into the classes yet, but it’s still something to worry about.”
In addition to the college students, the transition will also have an impact on UA students. According to Dan Donovan, the Director of Communications for Upper Arlington City Schools, the transition will indirectly push back the spring break for all students.
“Historically, OSU’s and UA’s spring break have always been related” Donovan said. “The original thought was to keep them aligned. However when we did that, we found that spring break would take place the second week of march. We were asked to change that because it would interfere with a lot of state testing, and it was too early in the year. At least for the next two years, our spring break will always be later, and at the end of the nine weeks.”
This change highlights one unintended consequence of Ohio high schools interacting with colleges. For many high schools on a semester system, the transition to a quarter-system college would require greater adjustment. Students entering after the switch, such as UA 2012 alum Ben Ozcomert, claim the changes are not problematic but help bridge the gap between high school and college.
“Honestly, the three-quarter system didn’t appeal to me,” Ozcomert said. “The semester system feels like a smoother transition to make from high school.”
Though the Calendar Conversion Program was intended only to ease mobility between colleges, it may also ease future transitions from high school to college by creating a universal standard for course length division in Ohio.