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Students expected to graduate early

If you can graduate early, do it.

That likely will be Ohio State officials’ message leading up to quarter-to-semester conversion in summer 2012, despite repeated assurances that the switch won’t affect students’ graduation.

John Wanzer, assistant provost of the Office of Enrollment Services and Undergraduate Education, said he expects OSU advisers to speak with students about graduating before the conversion.

“I think people are going to reach out to students … with a certain number of hours and ask them if they’re planning on finishing by 2012 spring,” Wanzer said. “In cases where (students) have finished critical course sequences and look to be on track, (advisers) may be in touch with them in special ways.”

The University of Toledo, a public Ohio university that switched from quarters to semesters in the late 1990s, sent letters to its students who were close to graduating, encouraging them to do so before the conversion, said Andy Jorgensen, who directed Toledo’s conversion.

Officials from Toledo and the University of Minnesota, which also switched to semesters in the late 1990s, said the number of graduates spiked before the conversion.

OSU Registrar Brad Myers said he expects a similar increase in OSU’s graduation rate the year before the transition.

“It’s just simpler, and they see that as a logical move to make,” he said.

Although students shouldn’t “overload” their schedules, they should graduate early if possible, said Jay Johnson, assistant provost of the Office of Academic Affairs.

OSU spokesman Jim Lynch agreed.

“Any university’s end goal is to graduate as many students as possible in as quick as they can complete their educational requirements,” Lynch said in an e-mail.

Wanzer said there are a few benefits of graduating before the conversion.

“They’ll be done,” he said. “They won’t have to make the transition. They will take no courses under semesters.”

Wanzer said graduating early also can benefit students by giving them a head start finding a job.

But Wanzer said he doesn’t expect students to be at a disadvantage if they stay at OSU after the switch.

With unemployment hovering around 10 percent nationally, many students might not be in a hurry to enter the work force.

Kate Ferguson, who graduated in three years from OSU in 2010 with an English degree, said graduating early saved her a year’s worth of tuition but did not help her in the job market.

Although Ferguson was ahead of her age group, she entered “the job market with a million other kids that graduated high school a year ahead of” her, so she was “still competing with 22- and 23-year-olds” as a 21-year-old, she said.

Although Ferguson works part-time as an event planner for United Healthcare in New York City, she said she is lucky she had connections outside OSU.

“The economy is bad. People are not finding jobs,” she said. “I got very lucky.”

Ferguson has regrets about graduating a year early.

“I would have had a somewhat easier course load and I would have definitely gotten an internship somewhere,” she said. “I felt like I was at a disadvantage. With that extra year, I would have minored or double-majored.”

Emily Pacelli, a second-year in English, said she will not graduate early because she doesn’t want to lose those opportunities.

“I want to double-minor or maybe double-major,” she said. “Three years wouldn’t be enough time.” 

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