June 26, 2008

OU Ready to Consider Switch to Semesters

By Rick Rouan, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

Jun. 26--Ohio University's provost will recommend to the trustees today that the university switch to semesters, completing the change by 2012 or 2013.

The presentation will include information about how other universities have changed to semesters, along with the research that an OU calendar committee conducted last year, said Kathy Krendl, executive vice president and provost.

The trustees are expected to vote on the proposal sometime during the 2008-09 academic year.

Changing from quarters to semesters has been on the table for years and is being pushed now by Ohio's higher-education chancellor, Eric D. Fingerhut, who wants all state institutions to adopt a common academic calendar to make it easier for students to transfer.

"The goal of the system is for students to move around the system," he said.

Krendl's recommendation would mark the first time the discussion has reached the trustees level at Ohio University.

"It is something that I think people would like to see movement on, one way or the other," she said last week.

Ned Dewire, an OU trustee who was president of the Methodist Theological School in Ohio in Delaware when it changed to semesters, said he would support the change.

C. Daniel DeLawder, chairman of the trustees, said considering a change now would work well with Fingerhut's plan for the university system, but declined to say whether he would support it.

"It's not appropriate for me to offer an opinion at this juncture because I have not seen all the facts," DeLawder said.

Out of Ohio's 14 four-year public colleges, only Ohio University, Ohio State University, Wright State University and the University of Cincinnati are on the quarter system.

The three other schools said they have no immediate plans to change. Fingerhut said OSU, the largest, is probably the furthest from conversion.

A committee found in 2002 that OSU could not change before updating its student-information system, said Martha Garland, vice provost and dean for undergraduate students.

The $50 million system is to be completed in winter 2009, but Garland said it should be in place for at least a year before the academic calendar is changed.

Another factor is cost.

A task force at Cincinnati suggested that the university allot $13.7 million, including about $1 million for changes in computer programs.

Krendl said she cannot determine costs for Ohio University until she has completed her plan.

A committee looking at the proposed change instead counted lost opportunities. It found, for example, that Ohio University could lose $4.7 million to $16.5 million over two years because of a short-term drop in enrollment.

"You do have a one-time adjustment so that people who are seniors try to graduate before the transition," Krendl said.

Changing the curriculum and spending more time on advising students would cost $2.7 million to $3.5 million over two years, according to the report.

How Ohio University would pay for a switch, like most other details, is still up in the air, Krendl said, adding that future state-ordered tuition freezes could influence the plan.

"It will cost something, no doubt about it," DeLawder said. "Are there longer-term benefits to it? That's the trade-off you have to consider in making that decision."

Fingerhut said it would be difficult to provide state money to pay for the switch. His plan recommends that two-year colleges change as well.

Valeriana Moeller, president of Columbus State Community College, which operates on the same academic calendar as OSU, agreed.

"If they go, we will, too," she said.

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