Summer class offerings to be expanded despite budget cuts

Rumors surrounding the upcoming summer semester have been circulating around campus, with concerns that classes will not be offered. Despite recent budgetary constraints, Tech has announced it will be offering—and expanding—a summer session in 2009.

The summer session traditionally has lower enrollment, as many students use the break as an opportunity to do other things.

“Even though the academic budgets were cut…one of the things [the colleges] thought they could control was how much summer school they offered,” said Andy Smith, senior vice provost for Academic Affairs. Initially, most of Tech’s schools started to cut summer courses as a way to control costs.

Reducing the number of courses could create a downward spiral. “That’s a big domino effect, because…students are going to say ‘no need to come, I can’t get the classes I want,’” Smith said. Summer tuition revenues are built into Tech’s budget, and last year’s summer session had a revenue of $15 million.

Instead of reducing the number of summer courses available, Smith said that increasing the course offerings would create an incentive for students to attend a summer session. If more students attend the session, the costs of additional courses will be offset by tuition revenue.

Revenue is not the only issue with reducing summer offerings. “[Summer courses] helped because I was able to get done with…some of the [prerequisites], so I can take my first AE courses this semester,” said Jenny Dowling, a second-year AE major.

Students can use summer courses to get ahead or to graduate on time. “[Without summer classes] I would probably have to grab an extra semester…for the simple thing of retaking one class,” said Jonathan Sheppard, a fourth-year ID major.

Summer classes offer benefits beyond timely graduation. By graduating sooner, students can save money. Guaranteed tuition rates expire after four years and taking summer classes to graduate sooner can protect students against tuition increases. Summers are also important to students in the co-op program who alternate between studies and work.

The summer sessions are not without problems. “Just because it’s shorter, doesn’t make it easier to deal with,” said Stuart Donnan, a third-year EE major. While summer courses typically have the same amount of material, students have four fewer weeks to learn it. This is particularly evident in lab courses, where students must complete the same number of labs.

Smith has added some incentives for colleges that increase their summer courses. “This summer, I have a plan that if [schools] teach more hours than you taught last semester, [my office will provide] you the tuition dollars,” Smith explained.

In addition to expanding course offerings, administrators are investigating the possibility of adding a Maymester for summer 2009. “Right after the [spring] semester is over, you have a four-week semester for just one class,” Smith said. With its shorter format, students would be able to take a course during the summer without compromising other summer plans.

Even with expanded courses, Smith said that the current summer session has its limitations. Due to an increased pace, summers are unsuitable for certain courses.

Tech is investigating a transition to a trimester system, which would lead to three 14-week semesters each year. In addition to changing the scheduling, this system would allow faculty to choose which semesters they teach. Currently, professors only have the choice to not teach during summer semester.

This summer, Tech will expand its summer course options while maintaining short and traditional summer sessions. Administrators are examining the summer semester and looking into ways to improve the student experience. The hope is that the additional tuition revenue from the summer session will help to overcome the budget setbacks.