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The Wescolite Student Newspaper February 16, 2005 Opinion _______ X-l Poses Challenges for Non-Traditional Students By Alison Kreiss The campus wide imple mentation of Experience One block scheduling planned for next year has many in the UM-Westem community wondering about the impact on non- traditional students. Non-traditional students, or “ non- trads” as they are sometimes called, are generally defined as older students who have not, for various reasons, entered college directly after high school. Some non-trads enter or re turn to college after travel or employ ment, some work full- or part-time, most are financially independent, some have families and children to care for, most live off campus, and some are trying to finish degrees by attending classes on a part-time basis. Colleges across the country have seen increas ing enrollments o f non-traditional stu dents in recent years. Non-trads now comprise 39 percent of the nation’s posfsecondary student population, according to a 2002 study by the Na tional Center for Educational Statis tics. As has been widely announced, beginning Fall semester 2005, the majority o f courses at UM-Westem will be offered in the block scheduling format. There will be two daily blocks, 8 :3 0 -1 1:30am and 12:00-3:00pm. Each block will run for 18 days, with four blocks per semester. According to David Moore, Aca demic Assistant to the Provost, a few select courses will continue to be offered outside of the block format. Department heads are still in the process of determining which courses fit more logically in the traditional semester format. Internet courses will continue to be semester-long. Some upper division course in art and educa tion will be on the semester, along with some environmental science courses, some introductory computer courses, and many activity-based health classes. Almost all of the courses in math and English will be block only. M oore1 plans to release a tentative fall sched ule by mid-February, which he hopes will help “ reduce student anxiety about the transition” by allowing students to start planning ahead for next year. Some non-trads may be looking forward to the predictable block sched ule, which they might anticipate will be easier to manage when it comes to their work schedules. Under the current system, a student may have an 8:00am class on Monday and a 3:00pm class on Tuesday, making it hard to accommodate a regular work schedule. But with a semesters worth of material packed into three and a half weeks, including field experiences in many courses, working non-trads may find it may be more difficult under XI to balance outside employment with their academic load. XI is immersion learning, designed with the traditional, campus-dwelling, non-working student in mind, a stu dent able to afford to devote their time and energy entirely to their coursework. Non-trads, on the other hand, are constantly trying to balance academics, work, and family, giving a little time to one here, and a little time to another there. Under XI immer sion, non-trads will have to decide what to sacrifice in their already crowded lives. Do they work less and take out a bigger student loan? Should they put their child in daycare in order to attend classes? Do they spend another semester or two or three in college in order to earn their degree as a part- time student? Non-trad Beth Sullivan, majoring in art with a special education minor, said up until now she has been taking mostly evening classes on a part-time basis, which have less impact on her work and family life. Sullivan works full-time and is raising three children. She anticipates block classes may in crease the time her children are in daycare and she may have to use vacation time from work in order to attend all of the classes in a block. “ Missing one class in a block would be like missing a whole week in a regular semester,” Sullivan said. Block scheduling will make it particularly difficult to be a part-time student. Currently, a half-time stu dent spends about 6 hours per week on campus. Under X I, that time will nearly triple during a given block. True, the hours are equivalent, whether compressed into 18 days or spread out over 15 weeks. But under X 1, the only way to attend part-time will be to take a block off. And because students have to register for the courses that fulfill their program requirements, they may end up with little choice as to which blocks they attend and which they do not. Currently, about 20 percent o f UM-Westem students are part-time, and the vast majority of those are women, according to data supplied by UM-Westem Registrar’s Office. Moore said if a student needs to take time off during the block for work or family obligations, they will be able to switch to another block rather than losing the entire semester. He said he hopes part-time students will find they have more options under block sched uling than they do currently. UM-Westem is a small college, and its smallness is what makes it special. It cannot be expected to be all things to all students. XI may be a boon to this year’ s and next year’ s freshman, and the classes to follow. But those caught in the transition and those non-trads who don’t fit the XI mold may find them selves squeezed out, and that will be a loss o f diversity to the Western community. TECS SPECIALTY SO C K S SIG N S SW E A T S PHOTO BALLOONS BANNERS SH O E S PHOTO TEES & C U P S RIBBONS 130 S. Montana G O D A W G S ! 683-4261