As the spring semester begins its downward spiral, students daydream of their summer plans: Leaving San Diego for home, going on a trip, working to save some cash or just beach bumming for a few months. Many of you may have deliberately ignored the recent e-mails from the San Diego State Office of the Registrar and College of Extended Studies regarding summer course offerings. Who wants to think about another set of classes just as we’re hitting deadlines for this semester’s essays and projects?
But this may be a regrettable oversight. Summer classes represent a great opportunity to stay on track for graduation, or even get ahead. Students need to take full advantage of their time in college. Unless work, internships or study abroad trips are occupying your time, a whole summer is a terrible thing to waste. With so much competition to get into required classes, and a growing contingent of “super seniors,” it simply doesn’t make sense to diddle away the summer months anymore.
Although the cost per unit may be slightly higher, it’s well worth it to get those general education classes, prerequisites or even upper division classes out of the way in consolidated six-week or 13-week sessions. A significant selection of classes are also offered online, so it’s even easier to split time between schoolwork and a job or internship, or even take a course from outside of San Diego.
Summer also offers the perfect opportunity to dive into dense material such as a language, math or science in a more immersive format. Sometimes taking these courses during a regular semester and meeting only a few times a week, you can easily fall behind or coast your way through without truly grasping the subject. Summer classes cover the same material faster and more effectively because they meet more often for longer periods of time. The College of Extended Studies’ Language Acquisition Resource Center offers excellent immersive language and culture programs. I can tell you from experience I got more out of my intensive language course in half a summer than I did in two semesters of regular classes.
But you may feel entitled to a few months of mental hibernation after a long year of studies. We have a culture built around summer, especially in California, filled with lazy sunny days and lounging on the beach. American students tend to take our relatively short school year and generous breaks for granted. But our average academic year in the U.S. of 180 days is far shorter than in other countries.
Many critics associate the long break with “summer learning loss.” Research from the Johns Hopkins University National Center for Summer Learning shows that “students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills during summer months.” It’s easy to see why critics would blame our short school year for the unsatisfactory academic performance at all grade levels in the global rankings.
Yet some universities and community colleges have had to cut back on their summer schedules. The San Diego Community College District, for example, has said it will cut summer offerings to minimum levels this year because of massive state funding cuts. But it would be a terrible mistake for SDSU to follow suit. Budget cuts have already left us with fewer classes for more students. The four year college experience has become a legend of decades past.
The latest figures available from SDSU’s Analytical Studies & Institutional Research put SDSU’s four year graduation rates at 27.7 percent. The six-year percentage, now the standard measurement for graduation rates, stands at 64.6 percent. Spots for deserving applicants are filled by students still struggling for their degrees long after they should have graduated. And students must struggle to come up with the money to spend six years or more in college.
Summer classes are now more crucial than ever. I applaud SDSU’s generous slate of summer classes this year. Don’t dismiss this great opportunity too quickly. It may come with a considerable cost in tuition and housing for out-of-area students, but the investment is well worth completing requirements faster and graduating early. And after all, San Diego isn’t such a bad place to spend the summer. You can still have that beach and sun-filled summer you’ve been dreaming of.
—Randy Wilde is an international security and conflict resolution senior.
— The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.