House study committee to look at pros, cons of semester and quarter systems

Rep. Shaw Blackmon speaks to his colleagues from the well of the House. (Credit: Georgia House)

Jun 19, 2024
Key Points
  • The University System of Georgia has been using a semester system since 1999
  • State lawmakers will examine switching to quarters from semesters
  • Rep. Shaw Blackmon, who chairs a new committee, wants to address workforce issues

Twenty-five years after the University System of Georgia changed course and moved from a quarterly schedule to a semester system, lawmakers are looking at whether the switch has lived up to its promise. 

“It’s been a while since the conversion, and our hope is to explore if the intended reasons to move from quarters to semesters has served us well, look at unintended consequences and get feedback from affected stakeholders and other interested parties,” state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, said in a written statement to State Affairs. Blackmon heads the recently created House Study Committee on Assessing the Semester and Quarter Systems at USG and TCSG Institutions.

The semester system, which most U.S. colleges and universities use, typically consists of two major sessions in the academic year — fall and spring — as well as two breaks between semesters. The University System of Georgia, which made the change in 1999, and the Technical College System of Georgia, which switched in 2011, are no exception.

During the 2024 legislative session, state lawmakers passed legislation creating the six-member committee to “examine respective advantages and disadvantages of semesters and quarters” at the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia. 

In establishing the committee, lawmakers said the state anticipated certain benefits after converting from the quarter to the semester system, including “alignment of curricula within and across systems to facilitate transfer of courses, increased administrative efficiencies, and reduced administrative costs.”

In 2010, then-Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson told The Covington News that the benefits of joining the majority of the nation’s higher education institutions on the semester schedule included “additional instructional time, more in-depth coverage of course content and ease of transfer to other institutions.” Jackson said the switch would also help align programs for high school students in dual or joint enrollment programs.

As for any plans to switch from semesters, there are “no major changes in mind right now” but state lawmakers would work with all the stakeholders and “administrative bodies” before making any major changes to the academic calendars, Blackmon told State Affairs

The study committee, he said, was formed to probe the transition from quarters to semesters while also collecting data.

“I think that a few of us over time had experienced the quarter system when we were in school and there were some pros and cons I think discussed when the conversions took place,” Blackmon said. “Are there some other things to consider? The one thing I think we pointed out … is you do have at least one less graduating class per year [with semesters].

“Certainly workforce is an important issue as well as the customer experience, [for] both student and employer,” Blackmon continued. “Hopefully, we can gather some information, answer any questions and review comparisons for our report that’ll come later in the year.”

And whatever comes from the study committee, if anything, will be shared with officials at USG and TCSG, Blackmon said. 

“The hope is always for continuous improvement, and we don’t know what we don’t know. An expeditious path to entering the workforce is an important consideration for those looking to graduate from one of our fine institutions of higher learning, as well as those looking to hire those graduates,” said Blackmon.

Find more information about the committee here.

Have questions or comments? Contact Issac Morgan on X @issacmorgan12 or at [email protected].

Know the most important news affecting Georgia

Get our free weekly newsletter that covers government, policy and politics that impact your everyday life—in 5 minutes or less.