Cal State L.A. students face challenges and change as school prepares for semester system


EL SERENOCal State L.A. students are facing a dramatic switch from the quarter system to a semester system starting in the fall. The school is working with its approximately 20,000 students and faculty to make sure it’s a smooth transition. But the change has generated anxiety as well as opposition among some students and teachers who claim it will only cause confusion and delay graduation in some cases.

“The school is taking care of everything very well, but a lot of people hate it,” said Nataly Perez, who is in her third year at CSULA. “It’s a hassle to convert your units to the semester system and trying to figure out what classes will be available after semester conversion. It’s messing up some ….. schedules and their original plan to graduate.”

Currently, the school’s academic year is split up into three quarters that each include 10 weeks of instruction. After the change, the academic year will be split up into two semesters, each with 15 weeks of instruction.

Come fall, all new  students will be enrolled in the semester system But continuing students have the option to stay in the quarter system until they graduate. The conversion will be rolled out over three years and cost about $7 million to implement.

Rennie Schoepflin, director of the semester conversion, said the system will make it easier for students to transfer credits from a community college and other universities as well as creating more opportunities for students to study abroad and take advantage of summer jobs and internships “It makes the campus more marketable for industrial, clinical, and business partners looking to add us into existing internship program[s] …. without having to make special accommodation for our quarter calendar students,” he said.

The conversion would also make it easier on campus operations by having to prepare for two semesters instead of three quarter, said Schoepflin. It would give the school more time to asses transcripts from students transferring from semester institutions.

CSULA does faces challenges to complete the transition, however. All the curriculum will need to be converted from quarter courses and programs to the semester system. The school will also need to adapt other operations — including admissions, financial aid and student records – to the semester system.

To the dismay of many students, the roster of required classes will change under a semester system, leaving many worried about whether or not they will need to take additional classes to graduate. Schoepflin said students will need to receive detailed academic advising to ensure that they understand what courses to take under the new semester curriculum.

Despite the challenges, the school is moving forward with the conversion.

“Once the chancellor and the president agreed to move forward, the university community has come together in recognition of the many advantages the change will bring,” said Schoepflin.

Lucy Guanuna is a freelance reporter who has covered a variety of issues, including business, education and social justice movements in her native Los Angeles. Her work has been published in the Daily Sundial, L.A. Activist, and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

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