Published: March 24, 2016
Instead of having two breaks this year, Spring break being one and Easter being the other, they both got pushed together for one “bigger” break. Many students, as you may have seen in our Campus Comments section in last week’s online edition of The Aquinas, were upset with what they thought was the school’s decision.
After speaking with Helen Stager in the registrar’s office, I soon found out that many students, myself included, have been blaming The University for an issue that they have absolutely no control over.
“First of all, the registrar doesn’t decide the academic calendar, it goes through a joint governance process,” Stager said. “It actually goes before The University governance council, which has representation from faculty senate, student senate and staff senate and it’s reviewed there.”
Stager went on to say there are still more steps in the process, as the provost gets involved as well.
“Then a recommendation is made to the provost,” Stager said. “The provost then must pass it to the group known as FAC, the faculty affairs council, they have the right to make comment, they’re the collective bargaining representative for the faculty. Then the provost actually decides on the academic calendar.”
Before the governance process can take place, The University must factor in the minimum term length driven by state and federal compliance meeting times. Unfortunately, neither of those are one in the same, so they both need to be addressed and factored in.
“Those standards, those regulations rather, actually establish minimum standard for meeting times in relationship to the block schedules for how many hours you meet each day in class,” Stager said.
Stager continued on by saying that although the minimum standards can be cumbersome, they are truly “well intended” and meant to protect the student and taxpayers who are investing major dollars to federal financial aid.
“…so while they’re at times annoying because you can’t just say “Oh well we’d like to just cut this down and so we can have another break the reality is they’re meant to ensure that the student is delivered what the student is indeed investing in both financially, in terms of time and effort and all those kinds of factors…” Stager said. “So those are huge if we want to be an institution that get Title IV financial aid and if we want to be entitled to award degrees in the common wealth of PA, those are minimum standards we have to follow.”
For those who don’t know what Title IV financial aid is, it is financial aid offered through grants, loans and work-study. Some of the grants and loans that are under the Title IV financial aid are: Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Federal Perkins Loan and Federal Subsidized Direct Loans.
After the minimum meeting time requirements are met and decided through state and federal compliances, the actual process of deciding the academic calendar can commence.
Deciding when The University can start the spring semester depends on what day of the week January 1 falls on. The University also has an intersession term, which also has meeting time requirements. These two factors will influence the day the spring semester will start.
The University, in accordance with federal and state regulation, does its best to assure that the semester doesn’t surpass the date of June 1, which explains why there is only one break this year instead of two.
“Why not two breaks?” Stager said. “Well one of the reasons is, if you did that we wouldn’t have enough meeting time without moving into June and I think most students would find of the two evils, so to speak, that would cause more harm to students who truly need to work or be in the internship mode or whatever else students have going on in their lives.”
Stager also mentioned that another reason why there aren’t two breaks is because leaving for a week, coming back for a week and then leaving for another break would cause the learning-teaching continuum to be too choppy.
Considering the option of having to shorten our summer and delay the opportunity to start internships and jobs, the decision to have one break instead of two would be beneficial in the long run. It will be a hard last few weeks without a break, but it would be better than having to go into June because The University has to stay in check with the state and federal regulations.
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