- How will semester conversion impact time-to-degree?
- Will all of the student’s existing quarter units count toward their degree following the conversion?
- What advising and scheduling will assist students prior to conversion?
- What will be the impact on students trying to transfer to CPP?
- What will be the impact on students trying to transfer from CPP?
- When will students need to pay fees and what will be the payment plan for a semester calendar?
- How will financial aid be impacted for students?
- How will student non-tuition costs be impacted by being on a semester? (e.g., housing, parking, etc.)
- How will semesters affect student services on campus?
- How will semesters affect student summer opportunities?
- What will a student's schedule look like under the semester model?
- Will a student's catalog year change? Will the requirements for degree change?
1. How will semester conversion impact time-to-degree?
There is little hard evidence concerning how long students take to graduate at quarter-based institutions versus how long they take to graduate on semester-based calendars. Proponents of the semester-based calendar claim that students are likely to take less time to graduate because a) the semester calendar is used in high schools and so new students adjust to college life more readily; b) the academic pace of courses on the semester calendar is usually slower and better allows for students to recover from illnesses, interruptions, or academic adversity; and c) because some courses may be offered less frequently on a semester calendar, students may be more motivated to complete difficult courses.
Some institutions that have converted to semester calendars have experienced reduced enrollment the year following conversion. Conversion may also have particular effects on part-time students. While there is some evidence to suggest at least temporary increases in graduation rate and first-year persistence along with decreased time to degree, there is little evidence about these over the long term.
2. Will all of the student’s existing quarter units count toward their degree following the conversion?
The University will make every effort to ensure that the units students have already earned will count toward their degrees. Several universities converting from quarters to semesters have made a “Pledge to Students” guaranteeing that they will graduate on time and will not lose earned credits provided they meet certain requirements: meet with advisors, develop an academic plan, and follow the plan.
3. What advising and scheduling will assist students prior to conversion?
An efficient transition will require extensive student advisement to ensure that students receive thorough and adequate guidance in mapping out their path toward graduation. Activities will include an expansion of these Q&As, creation of forms for advisement and standard student appeals processes, an inventory of advising tools, and mandatory student advising to develop Individualized Study Plans.
The University of Cincinnati report on its conversion process provides a model of a 3-pronged approach to advisement:
- Help qualifying students complete the degree program prior to conversion;
- Deploy new roadmaps to graduation, for students who enter the program in the conversion year;
- Help students caught in the transition to complete the academic program by following a hybrid curricular model.
4. What will be the impact on students trying to transfer to CPP?
Transferring to CPP will be improved for the majority of transfer students. Approximately 90% of transfer students to CPP come from California community colleges, virtually all of which are on semester systems. Currently, transfer of financial aid is complicated for some students if they transfer in the middle of the year because they have used up one-half of their eligibility in one semester at their community college and may be short on funds if they are taking two quarters of work at CPP. The content of courses is difficult to align completely when the terms are of different lengths. A transfer student may have taken a semester class with content that overlaps all of one quarter class and part of another. If they are given credit for the former they may still be required to take all of the later, wasting credits and covering material they have already studied.
Several rules and practices are “calendar neutral” For example:
- Transfers from other four-year institutions are allowed to transfer all non-remedial, non-professional credits.
- Transfers from community colleges are allowed to transfer a maximum of 70 semester units (= 105 quarter units).
- Community college transfers with their GE “fully certified” are held accountable for no further lower-division GE courses, regardless of the actual courses and their unit credit.
5. What will be the impact on students trying to transfer from CPP?
In most situations, transferring from CPP will become easier on a semester calendar, as most other colleges and universities follow a semester calendar. No conversion of units from quarter units to semester units will be necessary and the loss of units due to transferring will be reduced from the current situation.
6. When will students need to pay fees and what will be the payment plan for a semester calendar?
System-wide Fee Rates (State University Fee) are set by the Board of Trustees and are charged at the same rate per academic year on all CSU campuses. However, on a semester campus, the students pay only twice a year as opposed to three times a year on a quarter system so the fees to be paid at the start of a semester will be higher than those paid at the start of a quarter. Students also have a longer period of time to save for this expense so they will need to be prepared for this increase.
Each CSU campus is able to set its own timelines for tuition fee calculation and payment deadlines. Cal Poly Pomona sets its timeline according to the initial registration period of each term. Any change in the timeline for fee payment resulting from converting to a semester calendar will be aligned with changes made in registration periods. CPP has traditionally set the fee payment deadline at two weeks prior to the start of the next term.
Students who are unable to pay the fee upfront can sign a contract to make a maximum of two installment payments at CPP. On most CSU semester campuses there are three or four installment payments for the semester for California residents and four installments for students paying non-resident fees.
7. How will financial aid be impacted for students?
A semester schedule will decrease the number of financial aid check disbursements. However, the student’s financial aid awards are given for an academic year regardless of whether the school’s calendar is quarter or semester based.
8. How will student non-tuition costs be impacted by being on a semester? (e.g., housing, parking, etc.)
There is no reason for calendar conversion to change the monthly rate for parking.
Housing fees vary from campus to campus and depend on the type of housing. CSU campuses report similar housing costs for an academic year. Since the school year will be approximately the same length on the semester system it is unlikely housing fees will be greatly impacted by a conversion. Residential students attending a semester school stay in on-campus housing for longer continuous periods at a time, but not longer overall. The cost of utilities to operate the residential suites could potentially be higher on a semester calendar. Another difference in residential suites operations is that the quarter system provides three breaks between terms that allow the administration to schedule maintenance and repairs. With a longer span between terms, the administration will have to look into closing down the residential buildings to allow for a longer time period to complete these tasks.
9. How will semesters affect student services on campus?
Campus offices that provide student services will experience fewer fluctuations in their scheduling as the semester calendar requires one less period to process documents or perform business transactions. Examples of these are: University Housing will have one less period to process applications for student housing; the Disability Resource Center will spend one less time to qualifying student eligibility for accommodations; offices that employ students will spend one less time checking grades to verify student eligibility for work on-campus; the Learning Resource Center will only need to schedule tutors twice per year. In general, the semester calendar could lead to more efficient business processing across the campus, potentially allowing offices to have more time for better planning, special projects for service improvement or enhancement and staff development.
The student services located in the Bronco Student Center, such as food service, entertainment and information counter, and the ASI’s business unit that manages its budget and operates all the student services, will not be impacted by a change in the academic calendar. They will continue to serve the students all year long.
10. How will semesters affect student summer opportunities?
The office of CSU International Programs (IP) coordinates the planning for students who wish to study abroad and provides a list of universities worldwide that students at the 23 CSU campuses can attend. IP is accustomed to working with both semester and quarter calendars. However, most universities worldwide follow some version of a semester system. While CPP has managed to find ways to deal with the calendar difference, it is often a problem. Students often go abroad for the fall quarter, which is more or less equivalent to the first semester. But if they wish to go in January, they use up two quarters for one semester abroad, and they cannot go for the spring quarter since most institutions overseas are then halfway through the second semester.
It is possible that students will have more opportunities for summer employment, internships, research opportunities, and summer study at other institutions if conversion to semesters were to take place. Though employers and institutions try to work with students and their availabilities, 90% of colleges and universities follow the semester calendar, so many employers follow this schedule and begin seeking candidates for summer employment in early spring. Students who attend schools on a quarter system end their spring term too late to take full advantage of such opportunities. Students from quarter campuses do have opportunities to work later in the summer than students from semester campuses.
Currently, students need to complete 180 units to graduate. That works out to 45 units per year for four years, or 15 units per quarter (approximately four courses). Under the semester model, students will need to complete 120 units to graduate. That works out to 30 units per year for four years, or 15 units per semester. Most semester courses are 3-unit courses, so a full time student will take five courses per semester.
The length of a semester is 15 weeks, with another week for exams, as compared to 10 weeks plus an exam week in the quarter model. The individual class sessions will be shorter (for example, 45 minutes three days a week rather than 65 minutes), but the time over the entire term will be approximately the same.