Sunday, September 07, 2014
60 Divided by 12 Equals…
In theory, quarter systems allow something similar, yet at the community college/regional college teaching load of 3-3-3 or 4-4-4 (or higher, if they're teaching overloads to pay their healthcare premiums) you get burned out faculty who can barely form word endings when late May rolls around... and then you want to stick them back in the classroom for another 2-3 months teaching a full load too?
If rewarding the already-privileged is a concern, giving a special scholarship for low-income or self-supporting (i.e. nontraditional) students who are taking 15 or 18 hours that reduces their costs to the cost for a 12-hour load would seem to solve that issue.
From the government standpoint, I was still eligible for full-time student loans, but I would take 5 years to complete my degree instead of 4. The difference it made to my stress levels and overall mental stamina was incredible, and I would recommend (what you call) the 12-credit/semester pathway over the 15 credit pathway. Sticking around school for an extra year was a minor issue compared to the benefit of enjoying your classes so much more.
Enjoying classes more also hinged on there being an extensive summer break to recharge and focus on other things. This 9+9+9+3 model you proposed wouldn't have worked for me. At all. I likely would have shown up somewhere in your attrition column if my uni had done the 30 credits/year model.
This also allows students being funded by aid that is only available during Fall/Spring to take Winter and Summer classes (since Winter/Summer is an extension of the Fall/Spring, aid that is paid for the Spring semester can be used to register for both Spring and Summer classes).
Our only rule, as far as I know, is that you cannot take more than 8 credits in the Winter/Summer. Honestly, I don't know if we let students take more than 18 credits in a semester/session combo (say 18 in the Fall and 6 in the Winter), but if so, not many students take advantage.
To answer your question, we do not encourage students to take a heavier load (by which I mean more classes at the same time). We encourage them to take a 12+12+6 or 12+12+9 load and some of that first 12 might be supplemental instruction in math or english for underprepared students. (Those working 30 to 40 hours per week are told to got with 9 or 6 per semester.) This is in a system with two equal semesters and a somewhat shorter summer semester.
Summer Pell was fantastic. My impression is that students need a reliable floor from Pell on a year-round basis rather than feast and famine.
Keeping anything the same for 5 years would be fantastic.
Something that allows a lighter load for students working more hours, that is, admits what should be obvious about part-time students, would be fantastic. They should be able to get half the support for twice as long.
I've taught in an 11-week (10 + 1 finals) quarter system that could run consistently around the calendar for 44 weeks a year with breaks for Christmas, Spring, and bookends on the summer. Although summer was basically only grad students and athletes at that time, it worked smoothly. There was much less burnout than I see in 15 to 16 week semesters, on both sides of the lectern.
Pay attention and you will see that everyone is ready to take a break after 10 weeks of the semester.
Its only flaw was that school started several weeks after football season, which was enough to kill it. You can't have games with no band and empty student seats. Unprofitable.
Trimesters don't work as well because of arithmetic: They need to be 16 weeks (15+1) so you end up with 48 teaching weeks and only 4 off. You get more into a trimester than a quarter, but that is what makes scheduling impossible and you end up with a shorter summer semester or some other compromise that really does lead to burnout.