Trimester white paper released

SGA’s Undergraduate Academic Curriculum Task Force recently presented its Trimester Report to the administration, analyzing the potential opportunities and challenges associated with moving Tech to a trimester system. The trimester system would imply three, equal-length semesters for spring, summer and fall, instead of the current system with a shorter summer semester.

The report concluded that, while the trimester would present numerous opportunities to expand Tech’s educational programs and research opportunities, implementing the new system will introduce new challenges which must be fully recognized, addressed and resolved by the administration before a transition to such a system can take place. Furthermore, the report identified the transition period between the current system and the trimester system as the period of the greatest concern.

“The possible adoption of the trimester-based academic calendar is still under consideration as further study and discussion continues. The concept has advantages in terms of flexibility to students, programs, and resource utilization for the Institute, however, many details related to providing services still need to be fleshed out. Changes to the calendar are not anticipated within the next academic year,” said Rafael Bras, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

The report identified several factors that will have a significant impact on the shift to the trimester system and divided them into two categories: academic affairs and campus affairs.
The academic affairs category addressed how the transition would affect co-op terms and internships, academic curricula, academic advising, tuition and financial aid.
The campus affairs section discussed the impact on student organizations, student life and campus services.

While addressing academic affairs, the report indicated that three trimesters would standardize the length of co-ops and internships. Furthermore, by expanding the course offering in the summer to be comparable to that of the fall and spring semesters, co-op students in particular would see fewer problems when staying on a four-year track as higher level major only courses would be offered year round.

“The trimester system proposal recognizes that there are other opportunities that we have to better meet the need of co-op students. So the trimester system would give them more flexibility in choosing which semester they do on campus and off because they would have much larger course offering in the summer semester,” said Austen Edwards, SGA Executive Director of Academic Affairs.

Changing to a trimester system will require courses to be adjusted so that the workload is appropriate for shorter fall and spring semesters and longer summer semesters. While this will give Tech the opportunity to overhaul the curriculum to realign with the new strategic plan, it may also require an increase in faculty and staff to accommodate more courses, which will be difficult to fund in the current budget environment.

Switching to a trimester system will also impact the financial plans of students. Tuition will need to be adjusted so that the cost of attending the Institute for four years under the trimester system will be comparable to the current cost.

Furthermore, the Institute will need to deal with different scholarships that are commonly paid on a per-semester or per-quarter basis.

Regarding student organizations, the report noted that SGA serves as a primary source of annual funding for many organizations through allocations of the Student Activity Fee (SAF). If organizations begin to run annually for three full trimesters the SAF will need to accommodate these changes.

SGA would be forced to either deny student organizations the funds they need or increase mandatory student fees. Additionally, student organizations will be disadvantaged by constant student turnover as more students take advantage of off-campus opportunities each semester.

On the other hand, if organizations can successfully transition to running year-round, then organizations should be able to run smoother and have more time to pursue their objectives.
“The opinion of SGA is that as we continue to look at the proposal, we need to constantly talk to the student body determine how the trimester system will impact everything on campus,” Edwards said.

A transition to a trimester system has been discussed within the administration for several years. However, there is no immediate plan for such a transition.


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