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Summertime, and the living may be easier for students

University administrators are trying to find out if there’s a way for students to get around an undergraduate requirement and still graduate.

Administrators from the provost’s office are researching whether a degree from USF would still be valid if it were granted to a student who didn’t meet the nine-credit hour summer school requirement.

Because state funding for summer school has thinned from about $7 million in 2007 to $4 million in 2008 and may drop further in the future – coupled with course offerings subsequently becoming slimmer – administrators are looking for ways to retool summer school to make it less of a financial burden on the University.

One way they’re doing it is by trying to find out whether the current requirement – that all State University System students attending Florida’s 11 public universities must take at least 9 hours of summer school – is a hard-and-fast rule or an antiquated one that’s fading out of practice.

They’re also encouraging advisers to push students to take more classes during the fall and spring semesters, which they hope will help students graduate sooner.

The Board of Governors, which oversees the SUS, maintains that summer school is an efficient use of campus facilities that would otherwise sit empty during the summer and a useful resource to speed up graduation, as students in Florida typically graduate one semester late.

Officials at the provost’s office said Wednesday that other SUS schools might not be as tough on enforcing the rule as USF when it came to matriculating students, and the University was researching whether it had to abide by the rule and the penalties for failing to do so.

“They are not holding their students from graduation because they have not met the nine-hour graduation rule,” said Tapas Das, associate provost.

Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith emphasized that USF had not abandoned the nine-credit hour rule and that it wasn’t granting degrees that didn’t meet that requirement, but said that the University was trying to determine whether the rule was still in effect in “a practical sense.”

“We’re trying to determine if there’s more flexibility than we’ve been utilizing,” he said.

Smith also said that if the Board of Governors, which is in charge of Florida’s 11 public universities, was not enforcing the rule or if the rule was no longer upheld by other SUS schools, then the University may consider relaxing the requirement for students.

“It’s an option we would consider,” he said.

A spokesman for the University of Florida (UF) said UF still abided by the rule.

Bill Edmonds, a spokesman for the BOG, said he hadn’t heard of any talk of relaxing the summer school requirement or of universities not following it. He did not, however, completely rule out the possibility.

“That doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen,” he said. “There hasn’t been discussion of that yet.”

He also said he did not expect the topic to come up at Thursday’s BOG meeting, as it was not listed on the agenda.

Edmonds said, however, that summer school was increasingly popular with students and that the BOG would like to retool it so that it becomes more like a third semester of the academic year.

Edmonds, who said that the rule was still in effect, said he did not think the BOG would annul a degree if it was rewarded without meeting this requirement. “Presumably, you shouldn’t be awarded your degree without taking that nine hours,” he said, explaining that the BOG was not in the “business of punishing students for their success.”

“I don’t think that if a student has been granted a degree that we’re going to take their degree away from them. We’re happy that people graduate. That’s something we’re going to celebrate and encourage,” he said.

Edmonds said that summer school was a key component in making SUS institutions cost-effective, as they reduced the overall cost of education throughout the school year, he said.

Several students were supportive of the idea, citing an opportunity to use the summer for much-needed relaxation.

“I think it’d be better because people are pushing it enough in fall and spring, and I guess having to take summer as well is a big stress,” said Adam Oldfield, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. “I’d be happy, I guess, because I’d have my summers.”

Megan Simon, a freshman majoring in biomedical science, said, “That would be good. That’d be awesome. It gives you time relax over the summer. That way I’m not as burned out for fall.”

Alex Pinzon, who said he normally takes summer classes, was also supportive of the idea, though said he didn’t feel too strongly on the issue.

“I guess never even realized that they were required and just kind of did them on my own anyways,” said the senior electrical engineering major. “I guess they shouldn’t be required because it should be up to the student.”

Summer school, which will be at about 80 percent of the capacity than summer 2007 in terms of the amount of credit hours offered, accounts for about 20 percent of all credit hours taken at the University.

Though the number of sections for individual courses may be fewer than summer 2007, Das said he hopes boosting the number of seats in each class section will still allow students to take a wide array of courses.

Smith said that the provost’s office was working to assure that special offerings only available during the summer, such as some programs in the College of Business and the College of Education, were protected, as were courses that would allow people to graduate during the summer.