February 18, 2011 in City, News

EWU considers switch to semester system

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Eastern Washington University officials are working on plans to change from a three-quarter to a two-semester system, falling in line with about 90 percent of higher education institutions nationwide.

But the switch will not come soon.

Although discussions began more than three years ago, there is more research to be done on cost concerns and how it would impact EWU’s faculty, staff and students.

The cost for the conversion at other universities was $3 million to $5 million, according to the EWU task force study.

“We want to make sure we have the costs identified,” said Rex Fuller, EWU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “At the earliest, we are looking at 2013-’15.”

Doris Munson, president of the EWU faculty organization, said her group’s recommendation was to wait until the state budget had stabilized “for at least two consecutive academic years.”

But “the faculty is having an active discussion about how this would affect curriculum,” Munson said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to look at the classes. It’s just too early to know how things would convert.”

Meanwhile, a university task force has already researched the pros and cons of converting to a semester system, and an 18-month study is under way on the impact to EWU, including a cost analysis.

Among the pros of a semester system: EWU graduates would enter the job market in May along with most other university graduates, rather than in June; students also would buy books twice a year and have shorter classes, according to the EWU study. Some of the cons include paying tuition in larger chunks; dropping a class would affect half an academic year rather than a third; less variety in courses available each semester; and faculty would have to rework curriculum.

Fuller said some cost savings have been identified in moving to the semester system, mainly a reduction in processes and paperwork, including registration, counseling and grading.

“We expect to be able to serve the same amount of students and keep about the same amount of faculty and staff,” Fuller said. “It’s really a change in pattern of how we do things.”


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