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Consequences of eliminating J-term

Students, administrators weigh in on whether or not ‘what we gained far outweighs what we lost’

The 2015–16 school year brought many changes to the MVNU calendar, including the eradication of January term or J-term.

The main reason for the calendar change was to save money. It was estimated that removing this extra term would save the university roughly $70,000 a year.

According to Robert Hamill, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, removing J-term remains a smart financial decision for both the students and the university.

“Why add an extra $4,000 [to student expenses] if we can help it?” asked Hamill. “It’s a simple change, and if we can decrease loan debt, why not?”

With so many schools transitioning to two-term models, MVNU administrators did not want their students to be at a disadvantage.

The calendar shift allows students to graduate two weeks before most colleges, giving them a “leg up” when it comes to finding a job.

Many students are already taking advantage of the new calendar.

“I enjoy the new schedule because it provides a greater opportunity for summer jobs and internships,” junior pastoral ministries major Jay Zollars said.

“That’s the beauty of not having J-term,” Hamill said. “You get out sooner and beat others to the work force.”

Students now have a four-month summer, a four-week Christmas break and a two-week spring break.

“I’m definitely not complaining about having more time off for Christmas break or spring break, but I feel like it’s harder to get back into the swing of things,” senior communications major Miriam Hayslett said.

Originally J-term was meant to be an experiment for new classes as students reacclimated to their college routine. However, January became the “trip month” instead; many students took the opportunity to travel with various MVNU teams during the term.

According to Hamill, this was not a bad thing, but it was not the original intent for the term.

With so many students off campus during January, fewer than half of the faculty were actively teaching. Other faculty believed a one-month session was too short for their course, so they “sat out and had a six-week [paid] break,” Hamill said.

Initially many students were upset about this calendar change and concerned it would affect their ability to graduate in four years. However, new state rules now require fewer credits (120) to graduate. This means students can easily graduate in four years by taking 15 credits per semester for eight semesters.

For majors that require more credits, MVNU compensated by increasing the number of summer classes available.

With that change, students can now take up to 18 credits per semester instead of 16 and graduate sooner than before, Hamill said.

Many students have adjusted to the academic shift but lament the loss of the social opportunities J-term provided.

“Socially, the lack of J-term has given me less time throughout the year with my friends,” junior youth ministry major Caleb Gibbs said. “Everything feels way too rushed now.”

Sophomore public relations major Brooke Schnipke likes the extra breaks and getting out early but misses “only having one class the month of January and being able to hang out with friends here on campus.”

According to Hamill, removing J-term also removed stress for spring athletes. Tournament play for sports like baseball, softball, track and golf often fell during the week of finals. This meant athletes were traveling the last week of the semester, forcing them to reschedule their final exams. Now athletes can enter tournament play without the weight of academics.

Adjusting to the new schedule will take time for faculty, staff and upperclassmen. It’s about a culture change, Hamill said.

“Change is not easy, and people feel like we have lost something,” he said. But, “what we gained far outweighs what we lost.”

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