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Survey finds students eager to take summer classes

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - December 4, 2006

A high percentage of UConn undergraduates are interested in taking summer classes to enhance their academic careers.

In a recent online survey, almost three-quarters of the respondents (5,100 out of nearly 7,000) expressed an interest in summer classes.

The survey was conducted as part of the University's initiative to expand summer school participation and help more students graduate in four years.

E-mails were sent in September to about 20,000 UConn undergraduates at all campuses, with follow-up e-mails in October, inviting them to complete the survey.

The response rate was 33 percent.

"The outstanding response rate is indicative of students' level of interest in taking summer classes," says M. Dolan Evanovich, vice provost for enrollment management.

The Division of Enrollment Management recently assumed responsibility for the administration of the University's summer course offerings, previously handled by Continuing Studies.

"Having data drive the decisions is important," says Evanovich.

"We are in the process of sharing this data with the deans and department heads, with the intention of informing the discussion related to summer school course offerings in the future."

Survey findings
In the survey, students said they are interested in taking summer classes in order to catch up, get ahead, improve their grades, concentrate on a particular course, or enrich their experience.

About one-third of respondents indicated they are unlikely to graduate in four years, for reasons that include changing their plan of study, facing hardships, having difficulty enrolling in necessary courses, or taking time off.

Some are taking a double major or a program of study that requires more than four years to complete.

Students pay a fee per summer course that is comparable to the cost of tuition for a single course during the academic year.

Evanovich says taking summer classes can save students money compared with the cost of attending UConn for an extra semester, especially if they pay out-of-state tuition, and help reduce their long-term debt if they are able to graduate sooner as a result.

The survey showed that the majority (three-quarters) want to attend classes in early summer (May Term or Summer Session I).

Morning classes are more popular (48 percent) than those in the afternoon (30 percent) or evening (22 percent).

A majority (63 percent) would prefer to take classes in person; 38 percent preferred online courses.

The most popular campus was Storrs (66 percent), although a number of UConn students who attend the main campus said they would be open to taking a summer class at a regional campus closer to home. More than half of students (54 percent) expressed interest in living on campus if enrolled at Storrs for summer sessions.

Evanovich says summer courses are particularly appealing to students living in on-campus apartments or off campus with a year-round lease.

More than half of survey respondents (55 percent) said they were most likely to enroll in two courses during the summer, and 55 percent said they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to enroll in more than one summer session.

Specific courses
The survey, developed and administered by University Communications, asked students to indicate specific courses they would like to take in the summer.

Respondents requested more general education courses, especially W (writing) and Q (quantitative) courses; introductory courses in science, social science, and business; and upper division courses in their major, especially in degree programs with high enrollment, such as psychology, political science, and biology.

The Division of Enrollment Management has provided the list to deans and department heads, and is currently soliciting summer course offerings from departments.

As in the past, summer courses are expected to be taught by a mix of full-time faculty, adjuncts, and graduate assistants. Faculty participation is optional and is guided by the AAUP contract.

Registrar Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith says many summer classes are capped at a lower enrollment than those during the school year.

"Summer can be a great opportunity for a student to take a small class with a senior faculty member," he says.

Based on an analysis of the data, David Martel, director of electronic communications for Enrollment Management, and staff of University Communications are developing strategies to promote the availability of summer courses to students.

Information is also being sent to parents.

Registration for summer courses begins in February.

The survey was undertaken by the Division of Enrollment Management, the Registrar's Office, and University Communications.

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