U of L decides not to extend academic school year

By on April 17, 2012

By Baylee Pulliam–

Last semester, the University of Louisville considered adding class time or crossing through fall break to meet a new requirement from its accreditation board.

But don’t cancel your fall break plans just yet.

“The short answer: no change for now,” said Vice Provost Dale Billingsley in an e-mail.

Under authority of the 2008 reauthorization of the 1965 Higher Education Opportunity Act, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said in June 2011 it would set a minimum of 2,250 minutes of class time for a three-hour course, per semester.

That’s about 50 minutes of in-class time and two hours of out-of-class work per credit hour, over the course of 15 weeks.

Now, U of L operates on a 14-week semester schedule, equating to a two-week deficit for the academic year. It’s the only Kentucky public university in non-compliance.

To meet the standard, some suggested adding Saturday classes, adding five minutes to every class or eliminating some days the university would normally be closed, beginning in fall of 2012.

But that might not be necessary.

The Provost’s office points to a clause in the SACS mandate, that says schools can have a shorter semester, as long as they meet the 2,250-minute requirement “over a different amount of time.”

According to U of L’s revised Policy for the University Academic Calendar and Awarding of Course Credit, the university will fall in step with the SACS standard with a few tweaks:
Course catalog descriptions should clearly state the calendar and credit hour requirements, and both the catalog and course syllabi should list expectations for out-of-class instructional activities. The out-of-class activities requirement will jump to two and a half hours per week, per credit hour, to make up the missing class time.

Syllabi also need to stipulate “valid, assessable course learning outcomes.”

After hashing out the details with the faculty senate and other U of L campus leaders, the Provost decided “course objectives were being met under the present calendar,” Billingsley said.

According to a memorandum circulated to U of L Executive Cabinet, the current calendar lets students “move efficiently through their degree requirements” and allows ample time for summer terms, residence hall maintenance and a fall term break.

SACS will conduct a check of U of L in 2013, but current academic leadership expects to stay the course, Billingsley said.

In the interim, “we do have time to make a change if necessary,” he said.

For now, SGA president-elect Justin Brandt said, “Students should be glad with the decision made by the University administration to not make this change before they absolutely have to.”

“With that being said, students should also prepare for a change,” when and if it comes.

bpulliam@louisvillecardinal.com
Photo: Nathan Douglas/The Louisville Cardinal

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