July 09, 2013

Plans in place to re-invent summer school

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Major changes to summer school are planned for 2014 at SIU Carbondale.

Discussions about re-inventing summer school began last fall, when Chancellor Rita Cheng convened a nine-member Summer Enrollment Task Force.  Mickey Latour, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, served as chair of the task force, which included faculty, staff and administrators.

“Over the past two years, SIU has experienced a fairly sharp drop in enrollment in our summer programs,” Cheng said. “We are looking at all aspects of summer enrollment strategies, as we are doing with the fall and spring semesters, through the lens of supporting student success. The task force conducted a very thorough and thoughtful review of factors affecting summer enrollment, and I have asked the members to spearhead the implementation of the recommendations.”

The task force report cites several factors affecting summer enrollment, including:

  • The economic recession, forcing many students to work during the summer, rather than take classes.
  • Minimal Pell Grant availability.
  • Lack of student loan funds.
  • Smaller classes now entering their junior and senior years, which limits the pool of potential summer school students.

Enrollment for the eight-week summer session is 7,313 compared to 7,923 a year ago.

“We want to make sure that students are aware of how much summer school courses will benefit them,” Cheng said. “Our colleges and departments will more closely align programs and curriculum with student progress toward degree completion, as well as with community needs.”

The task force’s recommendations include:

  • Identify the most popular courses, particularly Core Curriculum courses or important prerequisites, and create a larger portfolio of junior and senior classes.
  • Assist academic advisers in helping students fold summer courses into their degree plans by making the summer schedule available when the spring class schedule becomes available in October.
  • Expand online and remote course offerings to reach the many “traditional-age” students who return home for the summer.
  • Change financial aid rules. Previously, students had to be enrolled for six summer credits to be eligible for on-campus employment. Effective this summer, that was reduced to three credits, and as a result, 1,838 students are working in campus jobs, comparable to 2012.
  • Move toward an “open campus” model in the summer, opening SIU to the wider community for youth-learner, early start, adult-learner, and professional development offerings.

Due to the scope of the summer school “makeover,” the University plans to implement changes for 2014.

“Our goal is to provide a summer experience that is as robust and valuable to SIU students and community members as possible,” Cheng said.