A few more tidbits on the UMN year-round calendar idea

Seeing this year 'round?

A lot of material couldn’t make it into this week’s piece on the proposal to convert the University of Minnesota to a year-round calendar.

I’ll try to lay it out in the coming weeks as the U studies the idea more.

But for now, here are some quotes and bits I found interesting.

It was really tough finding a university that goes year-round. A lot have considered it, including George Washington University. Even though President Emeritus Stephen Trachtenberg advocated it — including during a 2005 Congressional hearing on higher education — he said faculty turned it down.

A number of colleges and programs are on a year-round calendar, and even the U has a number of abbreviated summer classes.

But the only university that I’ve heard about with a full-on summer session of equal length and importance is Brigham Young University – Idaho. (It’s affiliated with BYU in Utah, but is a separate institution.)

Still, Larry Isaak, president of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, says the idea is catching on. He told me:

“At the present time, it’s not that common. But I believe in 10 years it will be more the norm than the exception.”

Trachtenberg told me the calendar will help universities compete against their for-profit counterparts:

“For-profit institutions provide opportunities to students more enthusiastically than the not-for-profit or state institutions do, because there’s money in it for them. And so they’re available more hours, they’re available on the weekends, they’re available in the summers. They start programs more accommodatingly than the regular universities do, and I think we’ve got to take a look at what they’re doing, and to the extent that it makes sense, we ought to borrow some of their ideas and take them home.”

BYU spokesman Andy Cargal emphasized that’s it’s not a mandatory “trimester” program.

Although it has three equal semesters, students take only two. So they might not graduate sooner. But a more consistent flow of bodies throughout the year has decreased bottlenecks and enabled BYU to increase its enrollment by 50 percent.

And he says employers have warmed to the idea of hiring interns outside of the usual summer season. He said:

“You know, at first some were surprised. They were like, ‘Oh, we never thought about hiring an intern during this time of year,’ or whatever. But we haven’t had any problems with it. We place just as many interns during those semesters as others. And, in fact, it’s a lot of times easier because there’s less competition.

That sounds like it could be one of the true selling points of a new schedule.

So how have faculty responded?

Design professor Becky Yust chaired a faculty-led survey last year that found some colleges interested in exploring the matter further. Others, such as the Carlson School of Management, College of Law and the College of Science and Engineering, were indifferent or saw little benefit.

So far, faculty at the U seem open the idea — even if they’re not wild about it.

She told me:

“I don’t think that faculty would rally against doing this. I think they all have the best interests of students at heart. And if it’s something that can help students, I think they’re willing to look at it. “

I hope to have more as things progress.