The state's Postsecondary Education Strategic Planning team is proposing that a semester system be used in all Utah colleges and universities.

The proposal promises to revive an ongoing controversy especially at Utah State University, which last year tried to end the debate with a vote to stick with the quarter academic calendar.Proponents of semesters argue the switch would enable students to easily transfer among schools. Critics contend the change would be prohibitively costly and rob professors of the time they need for research.

After studying the issue for months, the 22-member strategic planning team sided with proponents.

"One of the single biggest steps which could be taken would be to bring the academic calendars into better alignment," states a draft of the team's final report.

At present, eight of Utah's nine public colleges and universities follow a quarter schedule. Utah Valley State College and LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University divide the academic year into semesters.

Strategic planners estimate that conversion to semesters for those eight institutions would cost $5 million, but they did not list the switch as a priority funding issue. Thus, it is unlikely any legislation mandating a change will be introduced during the 1995 legislative session, said Cecelia Foxley, commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education.

Kent Robson, head of USU's languages and philosophy department, said legislators may be surprised by professors' anger and frustration if any attempt to shift to semesters is made.

"We're not willing to take this lying down," said Robson.

View Comments

George Emert sought to change USU's quarter system soon after he became president of the school in 1992. After faculty polls and senate votes showed the depth of opposition to the switch, his proposal was dropped. Emert said the school did not have the funding to go to semesters.

The University of Utah also toyed with the idea of switching to semesters two years ago. But a school committee recommended that quarters be retained, and the proposal was dropped.

The Board of Regents, which governs Utah's public System of Higher Education, will consider any school's proposal to change to semesters. But regents decided it would be unwise to mandate a system, Foxley said.

Darrell White, leader of the strategic planning team, said official recommendations for a semester system won't be made until money is appropriated since making the switch would require restructuring of curricula.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.