Ohio State Considers Transition to Semester System

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Friday is the final day of classes for the fall quarter at Ohio State. In a few years it could be the end of the fall semester. Governor Ted Strickland wants to more closely coordinate the offerings of the state’s public colleges and universities. That includes changing the few remaining institutions that use the quarter system to a semester-based academic calendar.

Most of Ohio’s public colleges and universities are on the semester system already. But Ohio State University, Ohio University, Wright State University and the University of Cincinnati are still on the quarter system. Aligning the academic calendars of all public institutions would be part of a restructured organization known as the University System of Ohio. Eric Fingerhut is Chancellor of the Board of Regents.

“We’re trying to build a University System of Ohio that’s a world-class system and that means it has to be high quality, affordable and accessible to all the students in our state,” Fingerhut says. “The ability of students to move within the system, to begin at one school and continue at another, as their interests develop, as they move to higher levels of educational attainment, is critical.”

To the president of the largest University in the United States, the conversion from quarter to semester is a massive undertaking. This is Ohio State University’s president Gordon Gee on WOSU’s Open Line.

” “It’s like planning the Normandy invasion,” Gee says. “But the issue itself is the fact that the world has changed; there are very few major universities that are on the quarter system; either we’re right and everyone else is wrong or else we need to try to realign ourselves in a way that gives us a more consistent ability to be able to compete in the world and that’s what this is about.”

The conversion at Ohio State would take years of study and millions of dollars according to political science professor Richard Gunther, who’s chair of the Faculty Council of the University Senate. He’s long been an opponent of a semester-based system, but recently he appointed an ad hoc committee to study the conversion.

“There are over 11,000 courses on the books, and between a quarter and a third of those will probably have to be eliminated,” Gunther says. “All of those courses that remain would have to be completely restructured to accommodate a different time frame. There are about 170 different academic degrees on this campus that are issued by this university; every one of those will have to be restructured. All majors and minor programs will have to be restructured. So in terms of faculty time this is going to be an enormous amount of work that we’re looking at.

But according to Chancellor Fingerhut the conversion process will help update the institution’s offerings.

“When you convert from quarters to semesters it forces you to go through the process of taking all those old course goals and attainments that have been established and revising them and modernizing them and updating them so I think that it is an incredibly important element of building our world-class system both in terms of the flexibility and ease of students moving through the system and the opportunity for us to take a fresh look at what we’re doing.”

Central State University in Wilberforce completed its transition from quarter to semester in 2005. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Terrence Glass oversaw the process.

“We wanted to have longer terms so that faculty and students could go into more depth in the course material,” Glass says. “Semesters are a little more forgiving if students need time to master a subject that’s difficult. Semesters also are administratively good because they reduce the registration and financial aid activity from three times to two times during the academic year. We predicted or we thought that we would lose fewer students during the year and that did prove true.”

At Ohio State a few students like Cameron Bodenschatz think the semester idea is a practical move.

“I think it would be a little bit more convenient for people who would want to transfer in and out,” Bodenschatz says. “Just being able to transfer for their credits and stuff that they already have for classes that they’ve taken.”

But others like Chelsea Primmer, Ethan Ross and Alexandra Bowden are die-hard quarters fans.

“I like quarters,” Primmer says. “I don’t want to spend that much time I can get more in and I can get my degree done faster so I prefer quarters.”

“I like quarters,” Ross says. “I don’t like starting so late but I like having shorter length of classes and taking less classes at a time. I think it’s mentally better than semesters.”

“I personally prefer the quarter system,” Bowden says. “Only because I feel like I can get so much more done in a year.”The faculty committee At Ohio State may make a recommendation on the issue sometime during the winter quarter.