According to data provided by the University, a lot more students stayed in Ann Arbor last summer to take classes compared to previous years. But exactly the reason for the boost is less clear.
JoAnn Peraino, curriculum and enrollment manager for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, wrote in an e-mail to the Daily that enrollment in summer courses was up 26 percent compared to last year. But, there was a 5 percent decline in spring enrollment.
The cause of the increase in summer enrollment can be contributed to a variety of measures, including the addition of more summer courses, the tough summer job market and the pressure many students feel to get required courses out of the way before increasingly tight fall and winter schedules.
This past summer, Peraino wrote that there was a 38 percent increase in the number of courses available and a 2 percent increase in courses offered for spring term.
In an interview earlier this month, University Provost Teresa Sullivan said that last spring and summer terms, the University offered more classes — all of them in LSA — in an effort to keep enrollment up during the summer months, a strategy that will be modified in the coming years.
Sullivan said the new strategy was successful, creating about 1,400 more credit hours. However, she cited a need to re-examine the effort to ensure its success in the future.
“It’s a good start, but this was the first year of that plan and we probably need to make it more robust,” Sullivan said.
Many of the new courses offered were core course requirements that are necessary for students to graduate with certain majors. Sullivan said this may have been more attractive to students interested in graduating early or getting core classes out of the way.
“Lots of people aren’t going to hang around in spring and summer just to (take) electives,” Sullivan said. “They want to get some of their requirements taken care of.”
Business sophomore Thomas Masotta took Economics 102 during summer term because, he said, he heard that the class was easier during the summer and he also needed to fulfill the requirement.
Masotta said if the class hadn’t been offered at the University, he might have taken the course at a community college in the area.
LSA sophomores Steven Colvin and Brad and Jeff Lankowsky all enrolled in spring term courses. They all cited the ease of getting required credits out of the way for their majors during the spring as the main reason they stayed for the summer.
Colvin and Masotta both noted they did not see the advertisements for new spring and summer term classes.
Peraino wrote in an e-mail last spring that many of the new courses were in Screen Arts & Culture, Biology, Communication Studies and Chemistry.
According to recent list from Peraino, new classes were also offered in Political Science, Psychology, History and American Culture. Some of these classes were offered for the first time in four years.
The other major, more obvious reason for the increased enrollment in summer offerings from the University was the tough job market in the middle of a national economic downturn — limiting the number of summer job opportunities and leaving students with fewer alternatives to staying in school for the summer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from April to July 2009, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 1.6 million to 19.3 million.
However, the percentage of people in that age group who were employed in July was just 51.4 percent — the lowest July rate on record for the Bureau’s series, which began in 1948.
With all of these reasons in mind, University officials are planning to maintain their increased emphasis on spring and summer offerings.
“We’re hoping to do better next year,” Peraino wrote. “Our plan is to offer virtually the same classes, with an eye toward a regular, dependable curriculum.”
The University recently sent a survey to LSA students who were not enrolled for either spring or summer term, with the purpose of gaining insight from those students about how to improve course offerings.
The survey is still being conducted, Peraino wrote, but will is expected to end today. After LSA receives all of the survey results, Peraino expects a new plan for spring and summer term classes to be released within a couple of weeks.
While many students took advantage of the newly offered courses, Sullivan said she hopes the number of credit hours continues to increase in years to come, noting that this new strategy of offering core courses could help incoming freshmen.
“(Freshmen) really couldn’t do that last year because we didn’t have our act together in time to let them know about it,” she said. “Now we will.”