RIT Announces Plan for Conversion to Semester-based Academic Calendar

Transition from quarter system to take effect in 2013

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A. Sue Weisler

RIT President Bill Destler

Note: Read a message from President Destler concerning the change in RIT’s academic calendar

Rochester Institute of Technology is transforming the timetable by which it delivers its academic programs. Beginning in fall of 2013, the university will convert from its current quarter system to a semester-based calendar, RIT President Bill Destler announced today.

The semester system that will be employed is based on a flexible 5x3 model, meaning most students will take five 3-credit courses per semester. Currently, RIT students typically take four 4-credit courses during each of the fall, winter and spring quarters.

Under this new alignment, fall semester will get underway each year in late August—allowing for an extended holiday break from late December through much of January. Spring semester will conclude in late May.

“This calendar ensures that there will be no loss of rigor in RIT’s academic programs,” explains Destler. “It provides for 30 weeks of instruction during the academic year, the same as is currently offered under the quarter system.”

Destler cites a range of reasons for moving forward with this transition, which he believes will enhance the quality of the students’ educational experience. One factor is the diminishing number of colleges and universities operating under a quarter-based academic calendar. In 1988, 25 percent of higher education institutions in the U.S. used the quarter system. It’s estimated that number will decline below 10 percent in 2012. Schools recently announcing a transition to semesters include the University of Cincinnati and Northeastern University, which, like RIT, have strong cooperative education programs.

“This put RIT in an increasingly isolated position that clearly complicates our interactions with other institutions in such areas as credit transfer, student exchange and study-abroad opportunities,” he says. “A semester calendar would also allow for the possibility of a true Rochester-area academic common market as all other institutions in the area are on semester calendars.”

In addition, the modified pace of a semester—which extends five weeks longer than a quarter—may help RIT improve student retention and graduation rates. It also eliminates a winter quarter that is disrupted by the holiday break.

According to Jeremy Haefner, RIT provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, the conversion to semesters affords the university an opportunity to examine its portfolio of academic programs and course offerings.

“We will rethink our programs and our curricula with an eye to re-visioning and redesigning them so they reflect best curriculum practices,” he states. “We want to be sure that they support strategic objectives related to student success, career orientation, liberal learning as well as student opportunities for innovation, creativity, scholarship and global awareness.”

RIT’s Board of Trustees supports the decision to transition from the quarter system to semesters. It follows a year of research conducted by RIT administrators as well as input provided by a range of RIT stakeholders solicited during open forums conducted on campus.

To accommodate additional questions and concerns related to RIT’s conversion to semesters in 2013, the university has established a hotline number. Students, parents, alumni and the public may call (866) 624-8330 or TTY (866) 758-1958 for more information. Feedback may be sent directly to RIT President Bill Destler at destler@rit.edu.

NOTE: Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. Nearly 16,800 full- and part-time students are enrolled in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs at RIT, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2010 edition of The Best 371 Colleges and in Barron’s Best Buys in Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes RIT as a “Great College to Work For.”

Note: Audio available for this story