Cal Poly to switch from quarter to semester system after CSU demand

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Upon the demand of the California State University system, Cal Poly will switch from a quarters calendar to a semesters schedule. 

Currently, Cal Poly is the only CSU campus that remains on the quarter system. In 2012, six of the system’s 23 campuses were on quarters calendars. But, the other five have since shifted to the semester system. 

The CSU system previously encouraged Cal Poly to make the switch, and the idea was met with resistance. But last week, CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro wrote a letter to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong stating he expects the San Luis Obispo campus to switch from quarters to semesters by 2025-2026.

“After much thought, and after watching the success of the other CSU campuses that have recently transitioned from quarters to semesters, I am resolute that the time has come for Cal Poly to adopt the semester system,” Castro wrote in the letter to Armstrong. “It is my expectation that the transition will be implemented by the start of the 2025-2026 academic year.”

Castro argued that Cal Poly shifting to the semester system would allow for articulation and equity; student success; and administrative efficiency.

Many first-generation, low-income and underrepresented minority students start at community college and then transfer to a CSU campus. Since nearly all California community colleges are on semesters calendars, Cal Poly, too, using that schedule will ease students’ transitions and improve the equitable access to the CSU system, Castro argued.

The semester system also makes it easier for students to find summer internships or jobs. Additionally, it simplifies administrative tasks, such as verifying vaccination status, calculating academic progress, completing financial aid reporting and hiring and onboarding part-time faculty, Castro wrote.

In response, Armstrong agreed to make the switch, though he acknowledged the decision may initially be unpopular.

“I believe Chancellor Castro raises valid points regarding the benefits of adopting semesters,” Armstrong wrote in a letter to the Cal Poly community explaining his decision. “I share his concern about Cal Poly being perceived — rightly or wrongly — as needing to address issues of equitable access and student success. In addition to the considerations he raises, I see this as an opportunity to: achieve greater pedagogical depth in courses at all levels; retain some fast-paced courses by having terms of variable lengths, as we do during summer; rethink how to balance teaching and research for faculty; and revisit curricular priorities across the curriculum.”

The CSU system will pay for the vast majority of direct costs related to Cal Poly’s transition from quarters to semesters, Armstrong said.

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