BYU-Hawaii Administration plans to extend the current 14-week semester into a 16-week semester starting Fall 2017 after proposing the plan in a meeting with faculty and staff on Dec. 1 in the McKay Auditorium. While 86 percent of faculty wanted the current trimester schedule to change, according to a survey done by the university, students said they have mixed opinions on the new schedule.
According to the plan, the new schedule has Fall Semester beginning in the second week of September and ending in December. Winter Semester will start near the beginning of January and end in early April. There will be a shortened Spring Semester that begins in the end of April and ends in June. During the Spring Semester, tuition will cost two-thirds of a normal semester’s tuition and students will only be required to take eight credit hours to be considered full-time.
Students said they liked how the new plan includes longer breaks in between semesters, which will be extended to be a minimum of 10 days, according to the plan. Some said they are happy to know the semesters will line up with other colleges around the nation.
Other students said they like the current schedule. Kesaia Vakalahi, a freshman majoring in computer science from Tonga, said the current schedule allows him to graduate early. “It is a good thing to graduate early so you can go home, get a job, help your family, and spread what you learn here,” said Vakalahi, “But I think it will be better to change to a longer semester because I will learn more and still get to study in paradise.”
The current BYUH academic calendar allows students to attend up to nine semesters total so they can graduate in three years instead of the typical four years. Academic Adviser Marilee Ching said in many ways more time would “be beneficial to students and faculty because it allows for more time to learn with longer vacations.”
Ching added students would enjoy the new schedule as it may include 50-minute class periods for one credit of class instead of 60 minutes because of the extended two weeks in the semester.
The new schedule provides students at least one reading day in between regular classes and finals week for them to study for their final exams, according to the information resented at the faculty meeting. Vakalahi said this break would help students do well in exams. “Back in my country in grade 12 and 11, there’s a study week before the exam. It really helped with doing well on the exam. It will definitely help me learn more rather than just cram in some notes right before.”
Some students said they were concerned about their financial aid situation for the upcoming schedule, but Financial Aid Counselor Eddy Tsing said, “Financial Aid will remain the same with the new schedule. It won’t really impact us. It’ll actually be better in some ways because students will have a longer time for the semester and getting payments in.”
Since being instated in Fall 2015, the trimester calendar has drawn both ridicule and praise from students.
“I like that you can get school done in three years,” said Sarah Knight, a freshman from California studying vocal performance.
Amber Chen, a senior from China studying international culture studies, said, “I think it’s good. I don’t really mind it at all. The only thing I don’t like is that the breaks are awful. You only get a one-week break and then, what can you do? You have to work 40 hours and then it’s gone.”
Satoru Honda, a junior music major from Japan, commented on how the schedule can conflict with family life. “I came here in summer semester last year, so I didn’t experience much of the older semester system. I basically like it, but one thing I don’t like about it is that I have an elementary school kid, and my break is different from his break. It makes it difficult to plan family activities.”
Ralph Holding, a sophomore from California studying business management, talked about the financial strain of a trimester system, “For me, there is an advantage to both. I like that you can finish early, but it’s hard to pay for school when you don’t have that extra summer to work. I prefer two semesters.”
Marissa Tauiliili, a junior from Utah studying social work, expressed concerned over the quality of education BYUH students receive under a shorter time frame, but how this can also lead to increased academic rigor: “Sometimes I feel like we are being rushed through school and are not given enough time to learn the material completely. It is all just thrown at us at the same time.
“But it’s nice that we are able to get through school quicker and not keep dragging on our education. It also gives us an opportunity to challenge ourselves by having to learn more material and master it in a shorter amount of time.”
Aloha Martin, a freshman business management major from France, talked about the brevity of the individual semesters, “I think it’s best to have three semesters, because then the semesters are shorter and you can get everything done faster.”
Amanda Pinter, a junior from Canada studying information systems, said, “I don’t like it because we don’t have the same schedule as every other school. It’s hard for getting internships and jobs.”
Students can take flexible semesters by either going to school part-time, taking classes online, doing an internship off-island, or taking a leave of absence. This gives students the opportunity to have increased freedom in their schedules, according to the BYUH website.