The cost of the switch

OU stricter than other Ohio schools in Q2S transition

Ohio University is the only one of four Ohio public universities switching to semesters that is requiring students to map out their classes in advance.

The quarters-to-semesters switch, a result of the Ohio Board of Regents’ Strategic Plan for Higher Education in 2008, calls for all public colleges and universities in Ohio to be on a semester calendar by Fall 2012.

OU, Ohio State University, Wright State University and the University of Cincinnati are the last major four-year Ohio universities to make the switch.

Although the universities’ transition strategies are similar, OU is the only school asking students to complete a detailed transition plan outlining the classes they need to complete in order to finish their degrees on time.

“By completing the transition forms, the institutions commit or pledge that a student will not stay longer or have to pay any additional tuition if completed as planned,” said Linda Lockhart, manager of communication for the Q2S transition at OU.

OSU, UC and Wright State do not mandate a transition plan, but they require all advisers to inform students about the transition and what needs to be done to graduate as planned.

“Whether a student chooses to do a (transition plan) or not, the adviser is committed to getting the student through the process,” said Herbert Dregalla, director of semester conversion at Wright State.

OSU has taken its own approach to the transition by beginning its switch this summer, rather than in the fall, and taking a decentralized approach.

“It made (advising) college- or department-specific, helping recognize the increased need for advising in individual areas,” said Jay Johnson, assistant provost for academic affairs and product manager for the conversion at OSU. “The earlier switch gives our systems an opportunity to be tested and to better find out if everything is functioning as planned.”

Although OSU’s colleges took individualized approaches in advising and planning the switch, the university as a whole helped with communication, Johnson said.

All four universities allocated at least $1 million for advising, curriculum updates, information technology updates and publicity to help ease the process.

UC set aside the most money — $7 million throughout four years — and hired 18 new advisers and registrar support.

“Our new hires are to help with the transition and will stay after we convert,” said Kristi Nelson, senior vice provost for academic planning at UC. “Essentially, the institution made an investment.”

Wright State used the entirety of its Q2S money to hire 10 new advisers.

At OSU, money was allocated to the Office of Information Technology to create a streamlined program to help convert courses to the semester format.

“A long-term benefit of the semester conversion is the technology and specific programs developed for this transitional academic plan that will continue to be used even after the switch is made,” Johnson said.

Decisions to hire additional advisers at OSU were made on a college-by-college basis, and funds for additional hires came from each college’s individual budget rather than the university’s overall Q2S funds.

The similarities in the universities’ transition strategies could be attributed to a yearly semester summit held at one of the four schools, which about 200 people from transitioning colleges and universities throughout the state attend to collaborate on transition ideas, Nelson said.

“It’s been very important because it has allowed representatives from schools around the state to meet together, discuss how they’re working on the transition and helps with networking, sharing and implementing the switch,” Nelson said.

A fourth and final summit will be held at OU in November to further examine and analyze how the switch worked, Lockhart said.

Each school promoted the transition similarly through posters, social media, email, websites and tables for students to ask questions. Universities also asked professors and deans to encourage students to work with their advisers during the switch.

Each institution sought student involvement by having a member of student government contribute to Q2S planning meetings.

“It’s their education, and we want to make sure they are not adversely impacted by the conversion of Q2S,” Dregalla said.

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