Frequently Asked Questions
The recent decision to move RIT to a semester-based calendar in 2013 has resulted in a variety of feedback from students, alumni, faculty, staff and parents. The following information represents responses to frequently asked questions. Please note that as RIT makes this important transition during the next three years, the university pledges to ensure students will not lose progress toward earning their degree, nor incur any financial burden associated with the change. During this transition, it will be RIT's top priority to protect all students from any harm during the change from quarters to semesters.
The Conversion Decision
Why is RIT changing its calendar system?
The RIT community has been discussing a possible calendar change over the last two years. These discussions have involved students, faculty, and staff, and have included many open forums and different proposed calendar options including alternative quarter calendars. As a result of these discussions, a number of reasons have surfaced for making the change to a semester calendar at this time. Of these, the most important by far are those that have the potential to positively impact the quality of the educational experience that our students receive. These include:
- Semester calendars are currently in use at almost all other colleges and universities, and the adoption of a semester calendar at RIT will greatly facilitate our interactions with other institutions in such areas as credit transfer, student exchange, and study abroad opportunities for our students.
- There is a potential for improved student retention and graduation rates because semesters are 5 weeks longer than quarters, and entering freshmen will have a longer period to adjust to college before final exams than in the current quarter system. In addition, all students will have greater opportunities to recover from illnesses and other interruptions in their studies because of the longer duration of semesters. Finally, the elimination of the winter quarter disrupted by the holiday break should help in student retention since the rate of course failures earned by students at RIT is the highest during this period.
- A semester calendar will allow for the possibility of a true Rochester area academic common market as all other institutions in the area are on semester calendars. Such academic common markets have been created in other communities with multiple campuses, such as Boston, and have proven to be of real value to those students taking advantage of them.
- The proposed calendar will allow for the offering of an optional January mini-mester for students want to shorten their time to degree, want to earn some extra money to help pay for their education, or want to work intensively on student projects. This optional mini-mester will allow students to take one course in an intensive manner over a period of about four weeks.
- A semester calendar will better align our calendar to that of most other colleges and universities and allow the scheduling of winter and spring breaks at times similar to those adopted by other institutions. Our students would then have a better chance to see old friends during the academic year and to participate in cross-institutional education and public service programs that are increasingly offered during these break periods.
- The recent move of several other universities (e.g. Cincinnati, Northeastern) with strong co-op programs from quarters to semesters provides persuasive evidence that the move can be accomplished while sustaining this critical element in most of RIT's educational programs.
Were student opinion surveys ignored in the decision to change to a semester calendar?
No. A report from RIT's Student Government and the results of an on-line survey of student calendar preferences completed by about 3,600 students were both discussed at length before the decision was made. Faculty and staff surveys indicating support for a change to semesters were also taken into consideration. When students opposed to the change were asked to state their reasons, they mentioned concerns over a loss of rigor in the various degree programs, concerns over whether course diversity and variety could be maintained in a semester system, and concerns over the impact of the change on the Co-op program. As a result, the decision was to go with the flexible 5x3 semester system rather than the 4x4 semester system preferred by the faculty and staff because that model more effectively addressed student concerns.
Were the alumni and trustees contacted before the decision to move to a semester calendar was made?
Yes, the alumni were told about the discussions of a possible calendar change to semesters in a letter from the President sent out last year. The Trustees have also been involved in these discussions and have approved the change.
Why is RIT moving to the flexible 5x3 semester system instead of the 4x4 semester model recommended by the faculty and staff?
RIT currently operates under a 4x4 quarter system in which students take an average of 4 courses per quarter each of which meets 4 hours a week. Thus students have approximately 16 hours of instruction per week for 30 weeks during the academic year. We have chosen a flexible 5x3 model allowing for courses to be offered as either 3 hour courses or 4 hour courses over a 4x4 semester model because the total number of courses taken in a typical degree program is greater for the 5x3 model. This model therefore provides more course variety and diversity over the course of a student's program. In a typical year under this system, students will have approximately 16 hours of instruction per week for 30 weeks, the same as in the current quarter system.
In addition, a substantial majority of colleges and universities operate under the 5x3 semester model, and adoption of this model will make easier a number of interactions with other institutions including student and credit transfers.
Finally, the transition from a quarter system to a 5x3 model semester system is much more easily managed than a transition to a 4x4 semester system, as in the 5x3 model many of our existing courses can be easily mapped to the new calendar. The transition to a 4x4 semester model would require a complete redesign of almost every course in our curriculum, a task that would be very difficult to achieve without compromising our forward movement in other areas.
The Specifics of Conversion
Will the new calendar provide the same opportunity for course variety and diversity as the current quarter system?
The total number of courses a typical student will take in a four-year period is reduced in the move to a semester system, but each course will have at least 5 hours more instructional time to cover additional topics. Under the flexible 5x3 semester model, moreover, certain course offerings (e.g. introductory physics and math sequences and early required courses in the major) will be offered on a 4 credit basis in order to assure a timely completion of these core programs. Teaching year-long course sequences in two semesters rather than 3 quarters allows for additional specialized and elective courses that will minimize any loss of course variety or diversity in a typical student's curriculum. As revised semester curricula for each degree program at RIT are submitted for approval, they will be examined to ensure that the kind of course variety and diversity that RIT students and employers have come to expect is preserved after the transition.
Won't a change to the semester system result in a loss in the academic rigor usually associated with an RIT degree?
The total instructional/lab hours taken by a typical student per week and per year will remain the same and the content of our degree programs will remain essentially the same after the change to semesters. This will ensure that the academic rigor for which RIT is known is preserved. In reality, academic rigor is more determined by what the faculty expect of students and by how students respond to those expectations than it is by a particular calendar system. Most of the colleges and universities thought to be especially rigorous in their academic programs are on the semester system.
Will it take longer for students to graduate under the semester system?
Won't I earn fewer credits under the semester calendar?
Yes, but semester credits are completely different than quarter credits and each semester credit represents more study. A typical undergraduate program requires 180 quarter credits but only 120 semester credits.
What will happen to students enrolled at the time of the change from quarters to semesters?
Student input will be solicited at all stages of the planning process for the change to ensure that no student is harmed as a result of the transition. RIT pledges that all students enrolled during the transition from quarters to semesters will get full credit for courses taken before the transition and will graduate without any delay due to the change. This will apply to B.S. students, B.S./M.S. students, and all graduate students. In addition, students will see no increase in tuition or fees associated with the change. During the year prior to the change, all students will be advised as to how their prior work under the quarter system will be matched to future work under the semester system to fulfill all degree requirements.
What about the co-op program?
RIT remains committed to Co-op experiences as a key feature of our students' educational experience. Under the current quarter system, students typically take four years of classes and spend one year as Co-op employees out in industry. Under the new semester system, the same requirements will be in force, with some adjustments in the number of required Co-op experiences to account for the difference in duration of quarters and semesters. RIT has already been contacted by Co-op employers who are pleased with the change to semesters because almost all other Co-op schools are now on semester systems and they have to make special arrangements to accommodate RIT students. Overall, the Co-op experience of RIT students will not change as a result of the transition to semesters.
Under the current quarter system, students are billed for tuition three times a year and only pay a third of an academic year's tuition in each billing cycle. Won't the conversion to a semester system result in students having to come up with more money up front in each billing cycle?
Students will be billed twice a year under the semester system, and each bill will reflect tuition costs for half of an academic year. The initial bill will therefore be higher than under the current quarter system, but the second billing will not occur until January as compared to November in the current system. The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships will be disbursing half of a student's financial aid and scholarships at the same time Student Financial Services is billing for half of the year's cost. Student Financial Services offers a number of payment options, including a monthly payment plan for families who need to make arrangements due to the change in timing of the billing statements.
What will constitute undergraduate full-time status in the semester calendar? After how many credit hours will students have to pay per-credit tuition?
To be considered full-time students, undergraduates will need to register for 12 semester credit hours. The upper limit is being discussed at this point and this FAQ will be updated when information becomes available.
What will constitute graduate full-time status in the semester calendar? After how many credit hours will students have to pay per-credit tuition?
The minimum grad semester credits are 9; An upper limit for graduate students is under consideration.
The Conversion Process
What will we do with courses we have not offered in a long time?
Eventually, all quarter-based courses will be discontinued, but during this transition period colleges should consider discontinuing some quarter-based courses now. The Semester Conversion Process offers us with an opportunity to clean-up our portfolio of courses in advance of our first term on the semester calendar. Academic units should consider discontinuing any course that has not been offered in the last five years. College scheduling officers can process the necessary paperwork to discontinue courses, which is the Course Master Form (CMF). This will improve our course conversion once we implement the new student information system.
Is there a perfect choice for designating a course SE, SR or N for many of our 3-credit quarter courses that will become 3-credit semester courses [maintaining the current course title and current content plus adding content for 15 additional instructional hours]. - M. Gustafson
- SE says "Closely corresponds to one quarter course" but also "no new content is added."
[Note: This seems to fit since the course name and 2/3 of the content is the same as under the quarter system?]
- SR says "rearranging or combining material from a previous quarter courses(s)."
[Note: This doesn't seem to fit since the added content is not in the current program.]
- N says "No corresponding quarter course(s). This course adds significant new curriculum content."
[Note: Although 1/3 of the semester course will be new content, it would seem odd to use the "N" designation and maintain the current title and 2/3 of the content.]
A: In this example we recommend using the "SE" designator because the department is not taking a 3 course sequence and making it into two new courses. Instead, a current 3-credit hour course in the quarter system is being converted to a 3-credit hour course in the semester system. Because of the increase in instructional hours, the department will be adding new content that does not exist in the current quarter course.
For program submission forms, do we have to show courses like thesis, independent study, co-op, and seminars in table 2 and do we have to create course outlines for these types of courses?
Yes, to both questions.
How do we decide which courses to show as D = “Course Deleted” on table 2… even ones that have not been offered? Should we just make sure they are not on the books?
Show courses as a D that currently are on the books and part of the program as it appears in the catalog but are being deleted. Be sure a D means that the course is not being converted as an SE or SR. If a course is off the books formally (been taken off course inventory by Registrar, then we probably don’t need to show it).
Can departments modify the course outline form by adding information required by an external accreditation body such as ABET?
Yes, an additional page can be attached to the end of the course outline form. The Semester Conversion office will add a downloadable copy to the packet menu webpage with specific instructions for your faculty. Send the form to Chandra.McKenzie@rit.edu
Within the college, assess the faculty member’s teaching load as it exists with respect to Fall/Spring or Winter /Summer. Treat three semester hours in January like three semester hours any other time of the year. 15hrs/wk for 3 week (5hrs/day) is part of the regular work load. In certain circumstances, depending on their load, teaching during January term could be used for extra pay or used against the teaching load in other quarters. January term should also be used by faculty to engage in scholarship and/or attend conferences [as was discussed when we were making the decision to go to semesters].
For BS/MS proposals are going directly the Associate Provost, which college (the one with the BS or the one with the MS) is responsible for submitting the proposal?
The program coordinators for each program should present the proposal with a cover memo that indicates support etc.
The Program Framework states that masters programs must have a 6-8 credit hours of thesis. Currently, there are a few MS programs at RIT without an MS thesis requirement. Will there be exclusion to those programs that do not currently require a thesis? Also, does a thesis project or capstone experience equate to a thesis in the semester model? - T. Cummings
NYSED mandates that graduate programs include a thesis, project or comprehensive exam as the capstone experience; therefore, project or capstone do equate to thesis.
What is the status of non 3-credit hour courses?
The Conversion Cross Disciplinary committee released a new procedure and a form that should be generated whenever the program recommends a course with credits other than 3. It appears on the Program Conversion Packet menu and is called, Non Three Semester Hour Course Waiver Form and Procedure.
Is the university closed on Labor Day?
Campus will not be closed on the following Tuesday. There will be no classes.
Can we start classes after Labor Day rather than have one week of classes and then two days off?
We can't fit in enough instruction time if we were to start classes after Labor Day.
Will the university be closed for the December holidays as it is now?
The calendar conversion will not be the reason that any changes are made to this long standing practice.
What happens during intersession?
Study abroad, research, coop, service work, classes; in other words, any normal business for the university.
Can the intersession be scheduled during the summer?
No. Intersession will be held in January.
Fall semester exams end late in December, is this a potential travel problem for students?
This is a common semester calendar; many schools end at this time. So while travel may be difficult at times, it does not seem to be an inhibitor.
How is co-op, especially in the summer, impacted by the conversion?
Co-op periods can vary depending on the programs and can be anywhere between 12 and 15 weeks. A summer co‐op can fit into that time period. An option for a double co-op starting with intersession, through spring semester, and summer allows for an extended block of time.