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Reconfiguring Community College Semesters

posted Mar 2, 2017, 12:30 PM by Emily Tai   [ updated Apr 2, 2017, 10:39 PM by Jay Weiser ]
By Philip Pecorino and Kay Conway


Several initiatives are driving CUNY’s community colleges (CCs) to consider moving from a 15 week semester schedule to a 12/6 schedule, where colleges offer courses in a two part 18 week semester. CUNY's Strategic Framework emphasizes access, completion, and students taking 15 credits per semester. Additionally, Gov. Cuomo’s proposed Excelsior Scholarship Program would require students to complete 30 credits per year with no failures or withdrawals. Lastly, under the new remediation placement criteria, more students needing more assistance will take credit bearing courses. In light of these factors the consideration grows more serious for moving the CUNY community colleges not yet on a 12/6 semester schedule into that format.

The 12/6ers

Of the seven CUNY community colleges, three are already 12/6ers: Kingsborough, LaGuardia, and Guttman. Of the remaining CCs on a 15/15 schedule (15ers), discussions may have already begun at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Queensborough, and Bronx Community College, while Hostos is reportedly at a more advanced stage of consideration.

The enhanced 18 week semester is broken into two parts: 12 weeks (Fall I or Spring I) and 6 weeks (Fall II or Spring II, which at other colleges are called Winter and Summer). A key component of the 12/6 schedule is that students can receive state financial aid (TAP) for the full enhanced 18 week semester.

Students at KCC and LaGuardia take a greater number of equated credits annually compared to the other community colleges (we have excluded Guttman as it is an entirely different model): 23.8 and 22.8 credits respectively versus an average of 19.4 at the other colleges. However there may be other factors impacting these results. Also, a larger proportion of KCC and LaGuardia students take 30 credits per year: 27.2% and 20.2% versus an average of 13.35% of students at the other colleges, making them eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship. 

Intensity and support

Many courses are not offered in the current winter terms at the 15ers because faculty believe they are not well served by the intense three week schedule, but lack of course availability may impede student progress to degree. Examples might include writing intensive, science lab, most upper level math and online courses. These courses might be offered with greater frequency if there were a six week term.

When students with lower level skills move directly into credit bearing classes, they need more attention to their work and time on tasks. Taking fewer classes at a time may help. But we also need to be cognizant of the school/life balance. While taking fewer courses might allow greater time on task, if students spend more time on campus in a given week, juggling work and family responsibilities might be an insurmountable challenge.

Current 12/6ers' experience should inform the discussion on the proposed moves, as well as considerable research on the impact of semester and class length on student outcomes, experiential learning opportunities, and other considerations.

We encourage the existing campus working groups to communicate with each other so as to maximize our resources. If you are at BMCC or QCC and want information on the advantages and challenges we have gathered thus far or if you want to contribute to this effort, please contact Kay Conway at kconway@bmcc.cuny.edu, or Phil Pecorino at ppecorino@qcc.cuny.edu. If you are at BCC or Hostos, please reach out to us as well so that we might coordinate this research effort across the campuses. If you are at a senior or comprehensive college and your faculty decide to explore the alternative calendar, please let us know. 

#12/6 #collegescheduling #remediation

Kay Conway is a Professor of Business at Borough of Manhattan Community College and Chairs the University Faculty Senate. Philip Pecorino is a professor of Philosophy at Queensborough Community College and serves on the UFS Executive Committee.

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Image credit: Jim.belk (Own work), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons