More Options Mean Summer School Enrollments Ebb, Flow

Summer school enrollment at the University of Georgia in Athens has dropped for the fourth consecutive year.

According to recent data, 13,549 students were enrolled in the program this year as of July 9.  That number is a 14% drop from the 15,731 who enrolled in the summer program in 2010, when the program was at its peak.

“I’d say we’re right where we thought we would be,” said Laura Jolly, UGA’s vice president for instruction.

The drop at the Athens location is similar to the drop seen across the University of Georgia system.  The university as a whole saw its peak for summer enrollment in 2011 with 154,886 students.  This number has dropped each year since then, with 134,066 in 2013, writes Lee Shearer for Online Athens.

The number of students physically on campus may be even smaller, as many of the courses are now available online.  With online offerings expanding this year to include 50 courses, about 2,000 students signed up to take them as of late May.

While some of the students are at the Athens campus, many are taking the courses through other locations.  It will still be a few weeks until administrators can see where these students are located, and who is part-time vs. full-time.

University administrators say the 2008 economic recession is still partially to blame.  However, the majority of the blame goes to recent policy changes that make it more difficult for students to afford the summer courses.  Pell Grants, which are given on a needed basis, are now harder to get in the summer.  Also, the state’s HOPE scholarship, which is lottery-funded, stopped covering full tuition costs for most students in 2011.

In comparison, schools in New Hampshire are seeing a spike in summer course enrollment, particularly for online courses.  The Community College System of New Hampshire  CCSNH), which includes seven colleges, reports online enrollment up by 11% this year.  Administrators attribute this increase to greater course offerings in high-demand fields as well as the increase of availability of courses, writes Iain Wilson for The Concord Monitor.

While online degrees have come under scrutiny recently for their educational effectiveness in comparison with a traditional in-classroom degree, schools that put effort into their program offerings, staff and academic support feel the two degrees hold the same amount of authority.

“I think having a faculty that lives in both worlds helps ensures that students are getting the same product,” Chancellor Todd Leach said. “I think that’s harder to ensure if you don’t have faculty who are engaged in both traditional instruction and online.”

Online classes also offer students flexibility and cut down on commuting, as 74% of those enrolled are New Hampshire residents.

“From an institutional perspective, it enables us to leverage technology and course offerings to extend our reach to additional students,” said Shannon Reid, spokeswoman for CCSNH.

The community college in Concord, NHTI, reports an increase of 22% in its summer enrollment, and is expecting this number to increase further.

“It’s too early to say for this fall, but we expect continued double-digit growth,” NHTI spokesman Alan Blake said in an email.