Utah Valley Community College's proposal to switch to a semester system does more than just promise academic and financial rewards for the students and the college. If put into effect, it also could help induce other Utah schools to follow suit.
The change would put UVCC's calendar out of step with the other nine schools in the Utah System of Higher Education, but it would bring it in line with nearby Brigham Young University's.If UVCC adopts the semester system, students taking classes at both BYU and UVCC - and many do - would no longer have to juggle the 10-week quarters at one school against the 15-week semesters.
UVCC students who compete with BYU students for summer jobs would find that a semester schedule gives them an even chance in the job scramble. Currently, BYU students are free to take summer jobs six weeks before UVCC's students are. In a valley where summer work for students is at a premium, those six weeks are a discouraging handicap.
In addition, there are several general benefits to a semester calendar recognized by the 1,200 colleges and universities that have adopted the semester calendar in the last 17 years.
Nationally, two-thirds of all U.S. colleges and universities use a semester calendar. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. students attend schools that are on the semester calendar - putting Utah's public colleges and universities out of step with the national trend.
There are several reasons for the national preference for semesters. The longer terms allow students to explore a subject in greater depth. Because there are fewer breaks between terms, campus buildings are more fully utilized.
After the one-time cost of changing over, schools save considerable money on the semester change. They eliminate the cost of a full cycle of student processing - admissions, registration, financial aid services, final exams, processing grades, computer services, and the like.
Additionally, students may get more out of their textbooks because most textbooks are designed for semesters, not quarters. When a summer semester is added, students can complete a full semester of course work during the summer, graduating in three years instead of the usual four.
In light of the long-term fiscal savings, the growing national trend toward semesters and the arguments for meshing with BYU, a semester system would be an excellent choice for UVCC - and possibly for other Utah institutions of higher education, too.