Cal Poly is the only CSU still on the quarter system and the current freshman class will be the first to see that change.
In Oct. 2021, the Office of the Chancellor requested that Cal Poly begin the conversion to the semester system. As of Jan. 2023, all departments submitted their program proposals. The proposals are currently in review and courses will not be finalized until Spring and Summer 2025.
The university is targeting a few goals with this new change. According to an email from President Armstrong, it addresses equity and articulation issues, allows for the timing of internships and study abroad to be more in sync with school and is better for communication across all CSUs.
“I see this as an opportunity to achieve greater pedagogical depth in courses at all levels, retain some fast-paced courses by having terms of variable lengths, rethink how to balance teaching and research for faculty and revisit curricular priorities,” Armstrong wrote in the announcement.
The university originally scheduled the transition for fall 2025, but due to the lengthy process to comply with the legislature, they postponed it to start a year later.
“The faculty need to work on it, then the chancellor’s office, then the Board of Trustees votes on it, then campuses can implement it,” Director of Semester Conversion Rachel Fernflores said. “It wasn’t going to be possible to start our first semester in 2025.”
This is not just a push from the Chancellor, but a legislative one to unify the general education pathways of UC and CSU schools.
“If you are a student in a community college, there’s one pathway for UC and one for CSUs. What Assembly Bill 928 tells us is that these should be the same,” Fernflores said.
This bill was passed in late 2021, when the Chancellor began to advocate for the conversion.
In unifying these pathways, the new lower-division GE template Cal-GETC has a total of five fewer units. Students will no longer take one of the three Arts and Humanities courses (in Area C) and the Lifelong Learning and Self-Development course (Area E).
“What happens to those five units is still being discussed and decided on at the CSU Statewide Senate and Chancellor’s Office level,” chair of GE General Breadth Samuel Frame wrote in an email to Mustang News.
This pathway will be implemented for both freshmen and transfer students beginning in fall 2026.
“For the students starting this year, any changes to the lower division GE template will not harm or impede their progress to graduation,” Frame said.
The new course catalog will be published in Fall 2025. For both GE and major courses, there is a process to review the proposals. First, it’s at the department level, then the college level, then general education and finally by the Academic Senate.
“If no senators pull a course from the consent agenda, then it is approved,” Fernflores said.
Most courses will change from four units to three units. Ultimately, this changes the 180 required units to graduate under the quarter system to be 120 semester units.
“On a quarter system, a lot of students will take four classes. On a semester, many will be taking five classes at three units each,” Fernflores said.
Instead of totally 40 hours over one quarter, each class will consist of 45 hours spread out in the semester. The five hours added to each class can be utilized to add more curriculum or to stretch out the content.
“There’s more soak time for heavy concepts or disciplines,” Fernflores said.
Some students say they are looking forward to this new pace.
“I’m excited that it goes less fast,” bioresource and agricultural engineering freshman Hailey Benson said.
For students who currently study abroad in Winter Quarter, they aren’t able to take Spring Quarter classes under the quarter system. The university also said with the semester system, internships that start in June will be easier for students to take on.
According to Fernflores, another benefit is this adds more associate degrees for transfers. If completed, these guarantee transfer students who took these courses a spot in a specific major at any CSU campus.
“We only had six prior to converting, but we were asked to be more transfer-friendly, so we did an analysis and we will now have 16,” Fernflores said.
There is still concern from some freshmen about what to expect.
“I’m worried about how my classes are going to work and it’s annoying that it will just be for one year,” general engineering freshman Peyton Quinto said.
Fernflores still is excited for the conversion with the new goals and things that have been accomplished thus far.
“We are trying to convert to semesters by capturing what we like about quarters,” Fernflores said.