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Students would not be served best by inter-session

POSTED October 30, 2009 11:43 p.m.
In reference to your recent article concerning the abolition of Winter Term at CSU Stanislaus, as chair of the faculty committee that investigated the President’s proposal that Winter Term be eliminated I would like to offer the following points for your readers’ information.
1. The President is quoted as saying “CSU Stanislaus will save almost $2 million by implementing the more conventional class schedule.” In fact the university will not save any money at all. The proposal made by the President suggested (but did not detail) cuts of approximately $680,000, of which $480,000 was projected to come from part time faculty salaries and benefits. (Permanent faculty salaries and benefits are not affected by the change.) However, part time instructors have already been laid off, with Winter Term still in place for the current academic year. The President's proposal does include a further $200,000 which his administration has said might be saved from staff salary and benefits, but the faculty committee has
recommended that staff not be laid off.
2. There is a financial benefit to the university, but only by charging the students extra tuition.
3. There exists a very real possibility that any financial benefit from extra tuition will be more than offset by a loss of state support. Students are telling us that they will not be able to make up for their winter classes by enrolling in an extra class in each of the fall and spring semesters (see item 6 below). If that proves to be the case then enrollment figures could drop, and state funding is tied to enrollment. In Winter 2009, 4,919 students enrolled in classes. An enrollment loss from as little as 5 percent of them could reverse the financial benefit of the extra tuition.
4. A survey of students, faculty, and staff on this campus showed an overwhelming vote in favor of Winter Term, 74 percent of all recipients
expressed the opinion that Winter Term has a positive impact on this campus, and only 12 percent indicated it has a negative impact. For students the difference is even more dramatic (81 percent versus 11 percent). The President has chosen to ignore these findings.
5. The revised calendar will lead to increased time to graduation, and possibly lower graduation rates. The statewide data on graduation shows that campuses with a traditional semester calendar graduated an average of 44 percent of their students within six years. For CSU Stanislaus, the six year graduation rate is 50 percent. (Data refers to students enrolling in 2000 and graduating by 2006, and is taken from http://www.csufresno.edu/irap/planning/documents/Performance_Indicators_5-6year_Grad_Rate.pdf.)
6. To progress to graduation at the same rate as they do now, students would have to increase their fall and spring workloads from four courses per semester to five. Many students have indicated that they will not be able to do so for a variety of reasons, including work and family commitments. Their only other option is to take an extra year to graduate.
7. The claim that the new inter-session is “exactly the same” as the Winter Term that we have been taking advantage of defies belief. Very few (if any) academic courses will be offered, either because the length of the inter-session is too short for appropriate instruction, or because of rules about offering classes under self support, or both. Students will not be able to replace their Winter Term units with inter-session units, nor will they want to since in addition to an increase in their regular tuition they would need to pay even more money for any inter-session class.
It is the faculty’s opinion, and the opinion of the students with whom we have contact in the classroom, that the President’s decision is not in the best interests of this university as a whole, nor those of the residents of Turlock, Stanislaus County, and the Central Valley.
— Ian Littlewood, chair University Educational Policies Committee at California State University, Stanislaus
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