University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler announced Friday that students entering two degree programs in the College of Design can take year-round classes and graduate in three years, starting this fall.
The University is using the graphic design and retail merchandising programs to test the water before deciding whether to allow year-round courses for all degrees.
The program is designed to give students the option to take full course loads in the summer. The traditional four-year option will still be available.
Last year, Kaler said in his State of the University Address that he had assembled a committee to examine how the University could better utilize its academic programs and facilities in the summer. The committee came up with a three-point plan, which includes the College of Design pilot program.
Kaler’s plan would also standardize most summer undergraduate courses to a seven-week term that would begin and end on the same date starting in 2014. In 2012 there were 69 different starting dates and 59 different ending dates, he said.
The three-point plan would require every category in the liberal education curriculum to have one offering in the summer both in the classroom and online.
“This will ensure that students will continue to make progress on their degrees no matter where they are living in the summer months,” Kaler said.
Fifth-year graphic design student Sarah Nguyen said that graduating in four years is a concern for students in the College of Design.
Nguyen plans to graduate next year and said she would have taken advantage of the new summer program if she had the opportunity.
“If I had the chance to graduate in four years, I would do it, but since there were no design courses in the summer I can’t,” she said.
Nguyen changed her major to graphic design from mechanical engineering after her sophomore year, which she said took her off the track to graduate in four years.
According to a Star Tribune article, the college tried adding a year-round academic calendar to the same two programs in the past, but students did not sign up.
In a September 2012 policy brief, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities wrote that skeptics of a three-year degree option argue that it “does not address underlying financial dynamics affecting college affordability, ignores the realities of most students’ life-work balance, and may compromise core learning and personal development objectives.”
Graphic design senior Margo Helvick said she may have considered taking the summer courses earlier in her college career.
“I probably would have taken [summer courses] after my freshman or sophomore years, but after that I would have probably gotten an internship in the summer so that I could get work experience,” she said.
But Helvick came to the conclusion that she probably wouldn’t have taken summer courses even if she had the option.
Graphic design freshman Chloe Crimmins said that she would definitely consider taking a full course load in the summer if it meant graduating earlier.
“It’d be nice because I was thinking about adding a marketing minor so not graduating in four years was definitely a concern for me,” she said. “But if taking summer classes is an option, that might not be an issue.”
Crimmins lives in Minneapolis and said commuting to campus would only take about 20 minutes in the summer. She has a job on campus, which accommodates her class schedule. Crimmins said that balancing the full-course load while enjoying the summer wouldn’t be a concern.
“I don’t see why you couldn’t do both.”