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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Lobo Letter

Taking summer courses can put you ahead academically and financially

The semester is almost over and students are studying for their final exams. Registration is already open for the first semester of 2014-2015 academic year and I know students, with help from their advisors and some online curricular planning tools, are deciding what to take next year. But I want to encourage students to take some courses this summer as well.

UNM has an excellent summer school that can be very helpful for students’ academic progress. UNM’s Division of Student Affairs has done a study on the effect taking a summer course has on graduation rates, and the results are astonishing.

For full-time freshmen cohorts that began in 2006 or 2007, the six-year graduation rates are doubled when a student completes one summer course for credit. Without getting into a cause and effect analysis, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between taking a summer course and completing your baccalaureate degree in a reasonable amount of time. The study further shows that taking more summer school courses correlates with even higher graduation rates.

You can take a course that you couldn’t squeeze in this semester or that was closed due to over-subscription. You can take a lab course that requires more time than you had this term. You can take an elective course simply to learn something about a topic of interest to you. You can get a prerequisite out of the way to get ready for the fall semester, or you can take a course that counts toward the core curriculum requirement and have enough time to enjoy it.

Some of our summer school courses are quite intense, but other studies show that when a student only has one difficult subject to master at a time, she or he does significantly better than when the difficult course is in competition for study time with several other courses. For example, some of my students who take organic chemistry, calculus and physics during the same semester have trouble finding enough study time to master three subjects at once. But if you take calculus in the summer you can focus only on that subject and be ready to go on with other courses in the fall.

I know many students have to work in the summer to save money to support themselves during the academic year, but if you can arrange your work schedule to allow yourself to take just one course this summer, you will find yourself significantly ahead next August when the fall term begins. And if you complete your baccalaureate degree in four years, instead of five or six, your student loans will be that much less and you can have more years of employment to pay them off. Going to summer school makes a lot of sense academically, and it makes sense financially as well.

Richard Holder

Faculty Senate President