Recent Summer Session Enrollments Show Declines

Because summer session provides support to ongoing operations at the University (and is not applied just toward the costs of running the summer session), enrollment declines can have far reaching consequences. The truth is that UMW’s summer enrollments have dropped off sharply, just as the national trends have shown. As we plan for the 2015 summer session, it’s useful to take a look at what our trends have been.

Nationally, the summer session story is highly mixed. Some universities report enrollment gains while others are showing declines. Some schools are seeing increases in online course enrollments, others aren’t. There isn’t one definitive national report of numbers but there are, instead, a number of isolated statements about patterns and trends at individual schools.

We tried a couple initiatives last year that did not work to generate enrollment. Summer session tuition was frozen at the previous year’s rates. Despite that, enrollment slumped. Housing costs were cut by 20% from the previous summer session, with no appreciable effect on the proportion of students residing on campus. For the 2015 summer session, tuition and fees will be at the current rate, as posted on the Student Accounts web page.

At UMW, these enrollment numbers tell the story of the past three years – and we all wish there was a different story to tell.

  2014 2013 2012
Total Credit Hours Enrolled 6151 6906 8543
Out of State Credits 475 534 529
Headcount (unduplicated) 1,176 1,247 1,514

The Academic Task Force made one recommendation with regard to the summer session that was examined but not implemented because it is not feasible. The Task Force recommended “that the cost to attend summer school be reexamined to eliminate the differential between in-state and out-of-state tuition.” Had the out-of-state tuition differential not been in effect last summer, the net tuition revenue lost would have been $241,260 – about a 9% decrease in total revenue. Undergraduate out-of-state enrollment would have to increase by 282% to avoid lost revenue if the rate for out-of-state students was the same as that for in-state students. This would mean that undergraduate enrollments would have needed to be 1,227 credits (instead of the 435 credits that were actually realized in summer 2014). Graduate enrollments by out-of-state students would need to double (from 40 credits to 80) to avoid a revenue loss. We are just not at a point where elimination of the differential between in-state and out-of-state tuition is a workable policy for the summer session.

The Academic Task Force also recommended that UMW “strategically plan and be proactive in the determination of course offerings to better meet student needs.” That’s part of the reason behind the student survey we are releasing. Additionally, the three Deans were given a comprehensive list of courses offered in the past three summer sessions with indications of the courses where the average enrollments were strong (above average) as opposed to those that were just barely meeting enrollment minimums. This list will provide useful data for planning the courses to be offered in summer session 2015. Deans were encouraged to share this information with department chairs as summer session course planning ensued.

Taking a look at our recent history in terms of courses offered and average class sizes is another approach toward engaging in more systematic planning. Here are the patterns of course offerings and class sizes over the past three summers:

  2014 2013 2012
College of Arts and Sciences
Sections–initial listed 155 160 174
Sections that ran 129 125 147
Average class size 10.23 12.11 11.55
Number of online classes 15 10 7
Average size of online courses 13.7 15.1 11.4
College of Business
Sections–initial listed 24 21 44
Sections that ran 21 19 43
Average class size 13.9 14.89 11.69
Number of online classes 2 1 6
Average size of online courses 23 24 11.8
College of Education
Sections–initial listed 26 31 35
Sections that ran 21 28 32
Average class size 12.52 12.4 11.8
Number of online classes 6 2 5
Average size of online courses 15.7 13 12.8
Total number of classes 171 177 222
Average class size 10.96 12.4 11.8
Number of online classes 23 13 18
Average size of online courses 15.0 15.5 11.9

What these numbers reveal is a need to be more careful about the total number of courses we initially put up so that we avoid having to cancel as many classes as we have been cancelling, which causes problems for students and faculty. We have also seen a slight trend for stronger enrollments in online courses and we want to encourage faculty to offer more on-line courses this summer.




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