Originally created 04/12/98

University system moves to semesters



As if algebra, world literature and physics weren't tough enough, state university students will have to learn a new way of college life when the quarter system is abandoned for a semester system in the fall.

The University System of Georgia's conversion to the semester system Aug. 20 will be one of the biggest changes in its history -- affecting everything from summer breaks and payment schedules to core curriculum and class length.

Students will have to have more money for tuition at the beginning of the semester, because the year will be divided into two terms rather than three. They'll have to adjust their daily schedules, because classes won't be held every day any more -- they convene every other day, and some may be longer. And if students take the same number of classes as they did under the quarter system, it will take them nearly twice as long to graduate.

Universities have been planning for up to three years to make the transition easier -- redesigning degree programs and core curriculum courses, developing semester conversion guides, advertising, setting up advisement workshops and filming how-to videos.

"We have even run a half-page ad each week in the student newspaper," said Charlene Black, Georgia Southern University associate vice president. "It shouldn't be that difficult."

Quarters and semesters in a school year are like the quarters in a basketball game and the halves in a football game.

The quarter system plays out much like a traditional basketball game. It is divided into four quarters: fall, winter, spring and summer. There are short breaks between the 11-week fall, winter and spring quarters, which make up the regular academic year. Four-, six- and eight-week courses are offered during the summer quarter.

But the semester system is a different ballgame.

The academic year is divided into 16-week halves with a long halftime show called semester break. Intensive four-, six- and eight-week summer courses are available in the off season.

At present, only 25 percent to 30 percent of colleges and universities nationwide remain on the quarter system. The switch will bring Georgia'a public colleges and universities in line with other major university systems and make transfers between colleges easier.

Students who are apprehensive about conversion, according to Ms. Black, haven't been to an advisement session.

But many students -- even the well-advised -- say they are nervous about the changes.

"The only thing good about semesters is the longer spring break," said Carrie Sneed.

The Armstrong Atlantic State University freshman said she preferred having her school year broken into four quarters.

"Now if you get a teacher that you don't like, you're stuck with them for a longer time," she said.

But Jim Byrd, Armstrong Atlantic's associate professor and chairman of its semester-conversion steering committee, said it's not that bad.