Debate: Should colleges divided school years into quarters?

Round 1

Side 1: While semesters are pretty much the standard, they’re a little strange when you think about it. We have two semesters that are about four months long and then the summer is usually accelerated. Presumably, this is to allow a little time to adjust after the spring semester or before the fall one. But we could get rid of that need for acceleration and still keep the breaktime if colleges would switch to a quarter system instead. Granted, quarters are usually faster paced than semesters, but usually, students take a few more classes per semester than they do per quarter, so the overall workload would even out. And, if people still wanted their summers free, three quarters is still usually fewer weeks total than the fall and spring semester added together. So, students would get more time in the summer for whatever projects, jobs, or internships they hope to achieve.

Side 2: While a system of quarters would allow for more individual classes, they’d have to be rushed a considerable amount. Any student who has taken a fast-paced combination class like linear algebra or differential equations knows the pace of your weeks can give you whiplash. By having three trimesters you allow students to absorb the information they’re getting from their classes. Not to mention the homework load that would come from a four-semester year would be insane! In order to make up for less class time, the teachers would have to claim more and more of the student’s own time. This would undoubtedly lead the student to resent that topic more and more and learn less and less.

Round 2

Side 1: Yes, seasonal changes would make things difficult for classes that need to be outdoors sometimes, but the quarter system could work with that easily. Because the extra segment exists, a school could offer those classes that might be affected by winter weather during the spring and fall. That’s still two class times per year, if you don’t count the summer, which is no different than what the semester system offers currently. As for a heavier workload, most students who take part in the quarter system take fewer classes, as mentioned earlier. This gives them more time for homework, and thus, the workload comparison isn’t that much different. Plus, students of the quarter system still end up taking more classes per year, so what we end up with is a system that gets you a few more classes per year, but less time spent on potential busy-work.

Side 2: A trimester system would allow teachers to plan around the times of the year much better than a quarter system. I don’t know about you, but being in the environmental engineering program means much of my lab work is done outside. If we were to have a quarter system, some of my teachers would have a class that begins at the end of fall and extends to the beginning of winter. This is just asking for the weather to mess with their plans. With trimesters professors could plan around a fall, winter and spring class. Not to mention, because students on a quarter system tend to have a larger personal workload after class the student would have less opportunity to enjoy themselves in each season. This would absolutely lower student morale and overall performance.

Side 1 argued by Rebecca Barkdoll and Side 2 argued by David Disney