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Semester switch to affect tuition payment

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With Ohio State preparing for a switch to semesters starting Summer 2012, OSU has looked at how another Big Ten school handled the same switch.

OSU officials told The Lantern the university has looked to University of Minnesota to learn how to help students and faculty transition from quarters to semesters.

Officials from UM said the biggest impact on students during its semester conversion in 1999 was differences in tuition payments.

Sue Van Voorhis, director of academic support resources and registrar for UM, said the biggest underestimated impact the university saw was the change in the division of tuition.

“Students obviously had to pay tuition twice a year instead of three times, but it was the same amount,” Van Voorhis said. “I think that was what affected students the most, at least from what we’ve heard.”

OSU officials acknowledged this change during an interview with The Lantern. Melinda Nelson, assistant provost and search coordinator for the Office of Academic Affairs, said university officials are aware of this problem in the conversion.

“You will be making payments twice instead of three times so instead of having that chunk divided into thirds, it’s going to be divided into halves and we want students to be aware and careful of that,” Nelson said. “The timetable for these payments will be different as well.”

Sean Fitzpatrick, a member of OSU’s Undergraduate Student Government and of the Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee, said USG has been working with Geoff Chatas, OSU chief financial officer, to prepare for the change.

“So we asked questions like how we figure out how to make these fee payment deadlines really acceptable for students. And we’re working on a temporary monthly plan,” Fitzpatrick said. “Nothing is official on exactly how the months will work out. But at least for the short term, it will allow students to be able to take a look and plan their finances out over time.”

Van Voorhis said UM did see an increase in enrollment right before the switch, but did not experience much of a drop-off after, as some universities do.

“We did see that burst in enrollment right before, with students trying to finish their degrees before the conversion,” Van Voorhis said. “However, we formed a committee that reviewed students’ degrees after. So say a student only needed one or two more courses to complete his or her degree, the committee would decide to make an exception for the student.”

Van Voorhis attributed the committee to aiding in the expected drop right after the conversion.

“I know this is a usual trend, but we really didn’t see much of it,” Van Voorhis said.

Steven Fink, co-chair of the Semester Conversion Coordinating Committee, said university officials have examined UM and its trends and used them as tools for OSU’s switch.

“Being that we did see those trends with other universities like University of Minnesota, we will prepare the changes,” Fink said. “We will staff accordingly.”

As far as staffing for the increase, Van Voorhis said the number of faculty actually has grown after the conversion.

“Unlike most universities, we had to create a lot of courses in basics like English, Spanish, math, things like that. So since we were creating a lot of courses, we added members to our faculty,” Van Voorhis said. “Now since then, I know that number has declined, but not due to the semester conversion.”

One of the biggest problems that the university encountered was the issue of course conversions, Van Voorhis said.

“A lot of faculty members weren’t sure how to write their curriculum for semesters. One of the biggest problems was that faculty did not do enough due diligence,” she said. “So five years after the conversion, we had almost all colleges go through and renew their course material.”

Van Voorhis said she did not know how much the semester conversion cost the university. Requests for OSU’s budget on the semester conversion are still being calculated.

Some students think OSU is not allotting as much attention to the conversion as is needed.

“So far, I think the university is not addressing this as they should be,” said Wesley Tyree, a fifth-year in dance. “My department has brought it up a couple times, but they haven’t really been giving it as much attention as I think should be given to it.”

Others said they feel the university is adjusting fine.

Emily Bitticker, a first-year in chemistry, said she is not worried about the conversion.

“I’m not really nervous for the switch at all. I trust Ohio State,” she said. “In my survey class, my adviser has been talking about it so I’m pretty comfortable with it.”

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