Westminster College students in the aviation major are beginning to feel pressure as they near the official end-date of the program. The program will end in the Spring semester of 2021, so there is no option for students who may need extra time to graduate.
For older students, this is less of a problem. But for second-year students, the pressure is on. Many students who started in Fall of 2018 will attempt to graduate by the time the aviation program ends in the 2021 Spring semester.
Tim Staley is a fourth-year aviation student who plans to graduate in the spring of 2020. But he said he is witnessing the pressure of students who started the program after him.
“Knowing that there’s a point where it all ends and if you don’t finish before then you’re not going to get a degree,” Staley said. “I think that lingering in everyone’s head is pretty rough.”
Aviation students were asked to sign an acknowledgment stating if they couldn’t finish their program requirements in time for graduation, they would not receive a degree, according to Staley. Staley said this adds stress because some required classes have been offered for the last time, which leaves no room for failure.
Now, some students who say they aren’t sure if they can finish in time at Westminster are starting to look elsewhere. They say it’s because aviation is time-sensitive and extremely weather-dependent as well, making it harder to fit in flight times between the many storms that Utah experiences.
Some students say they are also deciding if they should switch majors to aviation management. Aviation management allows students to stay in the aviation field but requires fewer graduation requirements, which they say can relieve some pressure.
Third-year aviation student Nick Murray said he has seen some of his peers switch majors because of those time constraints.
“I know people who have switched over to management majors because there’s no way they’d be able to get all their stuff done in time,” Murray said.
Murray also said even if students switch majors they can still use the ratings they’ve accrued at Westminster to get their pilot license later on. The aviation management major will also end in the spring of 2021.
Some aviation students were encouraged to use their spring break — for some, their last — to go to St. George and attend a flight camp. This camp would allow for these students to catch up on air time they’re behind on.
According to Murray, this is a politely-put message saying, “If you don’t come or can’t attend this camp then you will not be in a good place for graduation.”
Schedules for some aviation students have also had to change when it comes to summer break. Kyle Williams, a third-year aviation student, said he stayed in Salt Lake for the summer to attend aviation classes to make up for lost time.
“I know I don’t feel any stress on not finishing. I’m going to finish and graduate, but it’s a different story for some sophomores,” Williams said. “I feel like most of them are graduating 2021. They’re just trying to get all their credits with summer school and that stuff.”
Even with the stressful climate surrounding the end of aviation at Westminster, students in the program report still finding a strong community to fall back on.
“The aviation school is a pretty tight-knit group of kids, for the most part, and we kind of will help each other,” Staley said. “We work a lot together.”
With a strong community to fall back on, those in the aviation school said they hope to see all students graduate successfully by Spring 2021.