Summer Classes More Popular Than Ever

A summer session class in chemistry. Enrollment in UConn's summer classes has been growing steadily in recent years. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

A summer session class in chemistry. Enrollment in UConn’s summer classes has been growing steadily in recent years. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Summer courses at UConn’s campuses are more popular than ever before, drawing thousands of students who want to graduate early, enjoy small classes, satisfy a few prerequisites, or focus on challenging requirements for their majors.

More than 8,800 students enrolled in this year’s summer sessions, a 22 percent increase from 2009. Summer intersession enrollment already had been growing steadily in recent years, but it jumped considerably after UConn began offering half-price summer housing in 2011 along with reduced-price meal plans.

Out-of-state students also get in-state tuition rates during summer session, a policy that has been in place for many years and can represent a significant savings on the total cost of their education.

The number and variety of UConn summer courses has increased, too, as have online offerings and supervised for-credit study and internship programs.

Aimee Morey-Oppenheim, assistant professor-in-residence of chemistry, lectures at the Chemistry Building. Summer courses offer the opportunity to interact with faculty more closely in smaller-sized classes. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Aimee Morey-Oppenheim, assistant professor-in-residence of chemistry, lectures at the Chemistry Building. Summer courses offer the opportunity to interact with faculty more closely in smaller-sized classes. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Many students enrolled in the summer courses say it’s an ideal opportunity to complete courses that fill quickly in fall and spring semesters, and to interact with faculty more closely in the smaller-sized classes. Some incoming freshmen even take summer courses to get a taste of college life and start out with a strong GPA.

Jacob Coblenz ’14 (CLAS), who spent the 2013 spring semester in Florence, Italy, under a UConn study abroad program, says he decided to take a summer class to transition back into life in Storrs and to complete a writing-focused class in his major, political science.

Coblenz, who is taking a summer course examining American political parties, says satisfying that requirement will give him the time in his senior year for an internship and a chance to focus on acing his other writing-focused requirement, a geography class.

“I’m not trying to rush out of college by any means, but it’ll be nice to have a slightly easier senior year than trying to finish two intense ‘W’ (writing) courses,” says Coblenz, who also works as a tour guide at the Lodewick Visitors Center on campus.

A variety of offerings

The summer courses, which are available on all UConn campuses, operate on schedules ranging from three to six weeks. The earliest started just after May commencement, and the last session concludes Aug. 23.

Summer sessions are a longstanding tradition at UConn, having started in 1901 with 37 students in an agriculture course. UConn also has had an active program in recent years to help the summer students get jobs on and around campus, and the growth of Storrs Center has added to those opportunities.

The University offers a range of summer activities to help students get together and enjoy their time on campus, with ice cream socials, off-campus bus trips, live music, and other events.

Coblenz, a resident of Needham, Mass., is among the many out-of-state students getting the in-state price break offered to out-of-state students in the summer.

The cost, including fees, averages $1,175 for the typical three-credit undergraduate course. During the regular school year at out-of-state rates, Coblenz would pay more than $3,500 for the same course.

Part of a plan

Although this is Coblenz’s first year taking a summer course, out-of-state students who take one or two courses every summer throughout their UConn career can amass enough credits to graduate a semester early – and save thousands of dollars in the process.

“Students and their families are being increasingly strategic in planning their college careers. Summer enrollment is a significant part of that plan as they push to complete their degree more quickly, reducing the total cost of their education,” says Jean Main, UConn’s director of summer programs.

UConn advisers and others work with students to help them map out their coursework and take advantage of ways to shorten their college careers if they wish, an option that many pursue to save money and get into the working world more quickly.

Coblenz says that in addition to getting a jump on their credits, he and other friends staying in Storrs for the summer have also been surprised by the variety of recreation options. They’ve already have checked out the Mansfield Drive-In, staged a home-run derby on the softball fields, which are usually packed during the regular school year, and are enjoying the various UConn summer programs.

“All of the same academic services offered in the fall have been here for us in the summer as well, and that kind of surprised me,” he says.

“I’ve been able to go to the Career Center to have my resume reviewed, I’ve been able to talk with the political science department about internships, I run into my professor on campus and I can ask him questions,” he says. “I expected all of that that to kind of shut down in summer, but everyone’s here and they’re offering to help us.”

Each of the regional campuses also has summer classes. The School of Law also offers two intensive summer sessions for students at its Hartford campus with courses ranging from criminal procedure and contract drafting to family law, cybercrime, and statistical reasoning in the legal field.

Jessica Rubin, an assistant clinical professor at the UConn School of Law who has taught summer courses in person and online for the last several years, says many students seem to enjoy the opportunity to focus intensely on a single summer course and dig deeply into the subject matter.

“There’s also a nice group dynamic that develops in summer courses because we’re with each other for a lot of time – with nine hours a week together in the classroom, the class tends to bond,” she says. “That’s especially nice in a seminar or a course with a lot of discussion, as people become more comfortable sharing their ideas and observations.”