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Gwinnett Tech readies for semester conversion

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett Technical College has been working for several months to ensure a smooth transition for students when Georgia's 26 technical colleges convert from the quarter to the semester system, a school administrator said.

This week, the Technical College System of Georgia announced the upcoming conversion will take place beginning with the fall semester in August 2011. System officials said the change will further seamless education in Georgia and improve the state's work force development.

"The change to a semester academic calendar is in the very best interests of our students," Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson said. "We're a world-class educational system for work force development, and a major part of our mission is to provide seamless education where calendars and curriculum align and lifelong learning is easily attainable for students of all ages and circumstances."

Semester scheduling offers technical college students many benefits, Jackson said, including additional instructional time, more in-depth coverage of course content and ease of transfer to other institutions, as well as calendar alignment that better supports dual and joint enrollment opportunities for high school students.

The conversion will not affect students' state or federal financial aid, including Georgia's HOPE grant and scholarship programs. Annual tuition under the new semester system will be roughly equivalent to the annual cost under the quarter system; however, tuition will be paid three times a year instead of four times a year. Class sizes are not expected to increase on the semester system, nor will a student's grade point average be affected.

"We're very excited about the transition and anticipate that our students will reap tremendous benefits from semester scheduling," said David McCulloch, Gwinnett Tech's vice president of economic development. "Over 50 percent of our students come to us with some post-secondary education, so they're very familiar with semesters. We also have articulation agreements with 32 other institutions operating on semesters, so the ease of transferring and not losing past credits will be a huge bonus to many of our students."

McCulloch said Gwinnett Tech will begin conducting individual advisement sessions in early October, when fall enrollment is at its peak, to make sure the school reaches the greatest number of students before the conversion.