27% Jump in Summer Sessions Enrollment

A female student sits at a desk with a laptop
June Dy of Hayward is among the increased number of UC Davis students who have opted to take Summer Sessions courses this year. (Courtesy photo)

As Summer Sessions start this week, thousands more students will log on to take hundreds of courses — all now online because of the pandemic.

As of Monday (June 22), more than 14,000 students were enrolled, or about 27 percent more than last year, and for 138,750, or 29 percent more credit hours.

June Dy, a rising third-year student, is among them. The pandemic interrupted her plans for a summer internship, so the cognitive science major decided to make the most of her time while sheltering at her family home in Hayward.

Dy starts a course in organic chemistry in this first week of Summer Sessions I and will take a physics course in Summer Sessions II, which begins Aug. 3. “It’ll knock a lot of science classes out of the way,” she said.

In the pivot to remote instruction, Summer Sessions will continue to offer hundreds of courses, and students can register through Friday for the first six-week session and through Aug. 7 for the second. Financial aid is available, and a student’s enrollment automatically prompts a review for aid eligibility. 

Students have long used summer study to get access to high-demand courses, focus on more challenging subjects and accelerate progress toward their degree. This summer, those advantages stand out even more against the backdrop of the pandemic with the state’s stay-at-home order and the economic downturn providing fewer opportunities for summer employment and internships.

“I think a lot of that is the circumstances of the coronavirus,” said Matt Traxler, associate vice provost for academic planning in Undergraduate Education. “If you’re home, you can still go to school.”

The campus announced in early April that summer courses would be offered by remote instruction. Traxler said colleges and others partners rallied to plan courses, and Summer Sessions enlisted academic advisers to provide information about summer opportunities to students.

“We got out early with an announcement about summer and its format,” he said. “That helped students to do some planning.”

Initially, the campus had left open the possibility that some courses in the later session could be offered in person, but as the pandemic developed, the university made the decision to offer only remote instruction. Special Sessions, this year June 15 to Sept. 11, is usually a showcase of courses with field work and other adventures, but fewer than 10 courses — in language, political science and biology — remain through remote instruction.

Two other factors inherent in remote instruction may be contributing to the increased enrollment: The number of students is not limited by the size of a classroom, and neither instructors nor students have to be on campus.

Traxler, who taught an introductory course in psychology in the spring quarter, added that the experience of taking classes remotely last quarter may have helped students be more comfortable with the format for summer studies. “I think that helped demystify the experience for a lot of students,” he said.

Closeup of Karaen Chang
Karen Chang

Karen Chang of Livermore, who has already earned 18 units over two summers, agreed. Already meeting the requirements for a psychology major and a minor in aging and adult development, the rising fifth-year student is taking two courses toward a minor in managerial economics and an additional course in communications.

“I think it will be a little bit easier since we’ve been through online instruction in the spring,” she said.

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Julia Ann Easley, 530-752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

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