Most classes to change from 16 to 8 weeks for next fall

Big changes are coming for Amarillo College in the upcoming year. During the general assembly on Sept. 11, Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, made an announcement that the college will make 80 percent of classes eight weeks long rather than 16 weeks. The plan means classes would be conducted every week day for eight weeks. The semester would be split into two terms, Fall 1 and Fall 2, with the same separation for the spring semester. Students would enroll in two to three classes per term. “An average student at Amarillo College is enrolled for nine credit hours,” said Bob Austin, vice president of student affairs. Full-time enrollment consists of at least 12 credit hours. At this rate, students are taking much longer than the implied two years it should take to earn an associate degree. Jenna Hooten, a biology major, said she isn’t sure of her opinion of the change.“On one hand, it would be nice to get school done quickly, but on the other, I’m not sure how condensing classes like physics, calculus, etc., would be very wise,” Hooten said.Austin assured that it will typically be core classes that will be shortened. There still are some courses that will not be managed in an eight-week span. The courses will remain the same price as the 16-week classes, because students will be attending the same number of class days, just in a shorter time period. Austin explained an advantage that the change could bring to some students. “If a student is receiving federal financial aid, they will qualify for more aid because they will be packaged as a full-time student.”The goal is to get AC students averaging 12 to 15 hour semesters so they can earn their associate degree in the suggested two-year span.Hooten expressed concern about her courses still being able to transfer after the change. Austin said the courses will “absolutely” transfer just as easily. He course remains the same; it simply is condensed. Community college students often face the challenge of working their way through college. Austin said the change might help students with their work outside school.“This will optimize their time here on campus and help them to balance their work lives and their school lives, because they will only be focused on two or three classes every eight weeks.” This is not a new system. In previous years, AC has offered eight-week classes with positive results. “Students were successful. As far as getting registered for the classes, there was no problem. So we know we can do it,” Austin said. There also is evidence from a partner institution, Odessa College, that has started the system. Austin said OC already has seen an increase in student retention, satisfaction and enrollment. He said he wants faculty and students to know that it is a collective decision made by teams of people and faculty working together to make it happen. “It’s not like we got on top a building with a megaphone and shouted, ‘Hey, eight-week classes!’” Austin said. “This system is going to happen.” Classes are beginning to be restructured for spring 2016. The new system is planned to go into full effect in fall 2016.

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