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Story Student Success

CSU Syncs Up for Increased Student Success


Two of Six Campuses Switch to Semester Schedules

Students on campus

​In an effort to speed up students' path to graduation and meet the goals of Graduation Initiative 2025, a gradual conversion to the 16-week semester system is now underway across the California State University system.

Most campuses have been using the semester calendar since their founding, with the exception of six that chose to adapt the shorter 10-week quarter system to accommodate the flood of new college students—the Baby Boomer generation—following World War II.

However, after extensive collaboration with campus administrators, student and faculty governing bodies and students, and based on a current nationwide trend, CSU Chancellor Timothy White says the pros far outweighed the cons when the decision was made to convert the six remaining quarter campuses to semester terms.

Beginning this fall, Cal State LA and CSU Bakersfield will transition to the semester system, with four additional campus conversions in the future.

What benefits are envisioned for the conversion?  

  • It will contribute to the success of CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025, an aggressive program designed to increase graduation rates for incoming freshmen, community college transfer students, and low income and underserved students. 
  • It better aligns the CSU with other semester campuses—CSU, community colleges, high schools and others—to ease the student transfer process (nearly half of the 474,600 CSU students transferred from other schools).  
  • Quarter schedules often interfere with student internship schedules and require additional registration periods, financial aid applications, book purchases, resident costs and other related expenses.  
  • It allows students more time to adjust to college life, improve study habits, master course material, get help from faculty and support centers on campus, and take advantage of the numerous academic assistance centers and peer tutoring. It also provides greater opportunities for faculty to conduct research and work more closely with students to give them the help they need.
  • Semesters provide greater scheduling flexibility for working students and those who are parents.

"Eighty-two percent of our students are first generation, many from Latino and Asian immigrant families and many freshmen struggle with the unforgiving pace of the quarter system," said Rennie Schoepflin, history professor and semester conversion director at Cal State LA. "In addition to the many social, financial, intellectual and emotional issues they must deal with when entering college, they are also faced with the shock of the quarter system's fast-paced 10-week period."

He also added that as many as 20 percent of Cal State LA students drop out after their first year, and only 45 percent of the entrants graduate in six years, under the 10-week schedule.

"The semester calendar doesn't guarantee success but provides more time for students to catch up and get the help they need.  The university has made a pledge to students that, during the conversion process, it will maintain the quality of education and academic programs and that it will have no impact on their progress toward their degrees."

Jason Singley, co-director of the semester conversion set for fall 2018 at Cal State East Bay, said the process is allowing faculty "to rethink and, in many cases, completely redesign their curriculum, including deeper connections with our Intuitional Learning Outcomes and more high-impact practices that improve student retention and success."

CSUEB colleague, Associate Professor Linda Ivey, added that the semester system is "a chance for faculty to be creative and innovative as we come up with ways to challenge our students to be more creative themselves."

Meanwhile, each of the transitioning campuses are establishing dedicated areas where students can meet with academic and faculty advisers to plan for both general education and degree courses.  The goal is to put students' minds at ease, knowing that with the right planning and resources, they will be able to graduate on time.

"We don't want students to think they have to start over with a new semester-based general education plan," said Cal State East Bay Advising Director Larry Bliss. His department has been working all summer on a plan that he calls an "electronic road map" that allows students to meet with both their academic and faculty advisors to "help them figure out how to graduate in the most expeditious way possible."

Bliss added that "it is important for students not to panic, it's important for them not to feel like this is going to be a San Francisco earthquake. It is certainly going to be a change for all of us, but it's a manageable change and we're trying to make it as easy as possible for every student."

Nationally, only six percent of American colleges and universities are on the quarter system and the number is dwindling as the trend toward semesters continues. As one of the largest university systems in the country, with the most diversified student body, CSU is ahead of the curve going above and beyond to support students on their path to graduation.

Graduation Initiative