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Thursday, Jun 20 2013 11:00 PM

ASHLEY ZARAGOZA: CSUB's switch isn't just a calendar thing

CSU Bakersfield will switch to a semester system for fall 2015 -- and my only regret is that it didn't happen sooner.

CSUB President Horace Mitchell gives three reasons for the conversion: cost savings, improved access and improved efficiency.

While the annual tuition is equivalent in both systems, students will only have to purchase costly items like books and parking permits twice a year rather than three (or four if they take summer classes).

There will also be a smoother transition for those fresh out of high school and community college.

And, since CSUB is one of only six CSUs on the quarter system, it will help the state university system fulfill its mission to align all 23 campuses on a common calendar. In the process CSUB will also align with hundreds of other universities across the country, from the Pac-12 schools of the West to the Ivy League of the East.

As a CSUB alumna, I have my own reasons why I favor the conversion. For one, the 10-week quarter is far too fast-paced for students, an increasing majority of whom must work and maintain a full course load. As it stands, the quarter system does not account for accurate representation of students' knowledge and talent. Instead, it pressures students to finish assignments despite their quality.

I was a writing tutor at the CSUB Writing Resource Center, where I often encountered students scrambling to finish papers before deadline. I'd imagine the frequency of procrastination will now diminish -- maybe a little, anyway.

Teachers are also pressed for time. Students often expect assignments to be returned within days so they can gauge their progress as soon as possible, but this overloads teachers with grading. Teachers have only a weekend to assess students' 10 weeks of work and consequently have little time to offer useful feedback.

Not only will the semester system relieve time constraints, it will also allow students opportunities for summer internships. CSUB's spring quarter ends so late in the year that many internships (out of the Bakersfield area) have already started. And while some companies may be flexible, not all are.

Internships are crucial for students hoping to be considered for a job in their field. If students can't work because the quarter system is too demanding, and they don't have equal opportunity for internships, then they are missing out on building upon a major asset that employers seek: experience.

You might be asking yourself if you, as a taxpayer, will be paying for this switch. Well, like every good thing in life, there's a price to pay. But this one isn't so bad and CSUB won't be left to foot the bill alone. CSU Chancellor Tim White says the state university system has agreed to cover 75 percent of the changeover costs, leaving CSUB to pay $700,000 to $800,000 over the two years it takes to implement the switch. The money used to support this will likely come from increases in tuition, though nothing has been announced. And while this may seem a little steep, the long-term revenue from this change is projected to cover the cost and then some.

Chancellor's Office spokesman Ken Swisher predicts that CSU system's overall enrollment will increase by about 130,000 over a 10-year period when all six quarter-format schools complete the switch.

More students equals more money for CSUB.

While there are some perks to the quarter system, like a two-month winter vacation, the quarter system sets up certain students to fail. Students who are not naturally self-disciplined, who have family obligations or who must work full-time to pay for tuition are among those who find it difficult to excel in such a short period of time.

Come fall 2015, the education that CSUB students receive will be more focused than ever. Students won't be quite as distressed over deadlines, teachers will be able to devote more time to teaching and forming bonds with students and the outcome of all this will result in better-prepared graduates.

Although it's long overdue, arriving 50 years after the university's birth, it's good know that CSUB will soon be on the same schedule as some of the best schools in the nation.

Email Opinion section staff writer Ashley Zaragoza at azaragoza@bakersfield.com.

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