With Summer Session I having wrapped up and Session II just starting, many students are taking advantage of the opportunity to earn credits, whether that is on campus or online. I personally love the idea of summer classes — I think it’s a wonderful idea to alleviate some of the stress associated with finishing a degree on time and is especially great for students who might have more than one major or who have to work while in school. However, the way summer sessions are currently structured does not provide enough flexibility for students and ultimately creates a barrier to reaping the full benefit of the program.
Currently, undergraduate students are allowed to take two courses plus one physical education course during each summer session. However, it’s normal for students to take about five regular classes in a non-summer semester, so even with the maximum credits, it is very difficult to accumulate a semester’s worth of credits in one summer.
Because of the way financial aid is set up in the summer, some students might also feel pressure to take more classes than needed or may be unable to take a class that is offered in one session in order to receive their full financial aid distribution. Financial aid requires a combined summer total of six credit hours, but the distribution only goes to students once they have begun the class that puts them past six credit hours, further limiting flexibility for students who may need aid earlier in the summer.
This lack of flexibility could be detrimental to certain groups of students, such as those who have to withdraw from a semester for medical, psychiatric or other personal reasons. These students already face a much more challenging road to graduation, and through limiting summer courses, this makes it even more difficult for these students to make up lost credits. There are also students with families or full-time jobs as well as non-degree-seeking students who may have a difficult time fitting in courses according to the traditional schedule and require a greater level of flexibility in course selection.
Additionally, because the summer sessions are evenly split, this creates a disadvantage for students who can only take courses in Summer Session I but not Summer Session II or vice versa. With such a large and diverse student body, there is incredible variability in scheduling. Creating such a rigid schedule can serve as a barrier to students who need to take more credits but whose summer plans do not fit the rigidly structured academic schedule. For instance, a student might have a full-time job and an internship in the latter half of the summer, but have more free time in the beginning, so the student would want to take more courses in Summer Session I, only to be limited by the current restrictions.
Instead of creating such an inflexible system surrounding summer courses, students would benefit from being allowed to take additional classes. While some of the rigidity in this scheduling could be attributed to the carryover between Summer Session I and II for 10-week courses, this could be solved by only allowing students to take one 10-week class or increasing the amount of five-week classes offered. Creating more flexibility in the summer sessions may actually serve to increase enrollment in these courses and could allow more students to create an individualized experience that accommodates their needs while meeting degree requirements.