Summer Session Enrollments Showed Smaller Decline in 2015

While total summer session enrollments again decreased in summer 2015, the rate of the decline was smaller than had been the case for the prior three summers. The number of fully online courses offered increased by 65% over the prior summer, and these courses were strong performers. UMW is not unique in seeing declining registration in summer session courses. We need to keep doing everything possible to try and reverse these enrollment trends.

The 2015 summer session’s total enrollment (measured by total credit hours) was 5.5% less than the enrollment in the 2014 session. But the rate of decline over the two summer sessions before that was considerably more. The 2013 summer session experienced a 19.2% decline in total credit hours (compared to 2012). In 2014, the rate of decline when measured against 2013 was 8.9%.

Slowing the rate of decline in summer session enrollment was a good first step. Hopefully, we will continue to make progress this coming summer and, perhaps, even show some growth in summer session enrollments. If we are able to do that, it would be the first time since 2010 that summer enrollment would show growth over the prior year.

Here is a snapshot of summer session enrollment patterns over the last four years:

  2015 2014 2013 2012
Total Credit Hours Enrolled 5785 6151 6906 8543
Out of State Credits 319 475 534 529
Headcount Enrollment (unduplicated) 925 1,176 1,247 1,514

Summer session enrollment last year was just two thirds of what it was four years ago. Taking a look at our recent history in terms of courses offered and average class sizes also offers some insight into enrollment trends over the past four summer sessions:

  2015 2014 2013 2012
College of Arts and Sciences
Sections initially listed 126 155 160 174
Sections that ran 104 129 125 147
Average class size (all classes) 11.4 10.23 12.11 11.55
Number of online classes 25 15 10 7
Average size of online courses 12.92 13.7 15.1 11.4
College of Business
Sections initially listed 22 24 21 44
Sections that ran 21 21 19 43
Average class size (all classes) 12.33 13.9 14.89 11.69
Number of online classes 5 2 1 6
Average size of online courses 16.8 23 24 11.8
College of Education
Sections initially listed 28 26 31 35
Sections that ran 24 21 28 32
Average class size (all classes) 12.75 12.52 12.4 11.8
Number of online classes 8 6 2 5
Average size of online courses 13.13 15.7 13 12.8
Total number of classes offered 149 171 177 222
Average class size (all classes) 11.75 10.96 12.4 11.8
Number of online classes 38 23 13 18
Average size of online courses 13.37 15.0 15.5 11.9
Average size of non-online courses 11.19 10.33 12.15 11.8

As the chart suggests, the total number of summer classes offered has been declining as a consequence of lowered student demand. Class sizes, though, have remained relatively constant as has the proportion of courses being offered by each College.

We have also seen a trend for stronger enrollments in online courses. The 38 fully online courses offered last summer were spread across all five of UMW’s separate summer terms. Sixteen (16) separate subject disciplines were represented. Only one of the initially proposed online courses had to be canceled, and the average size of online courses offered was about two students greater than enrollment in all other courses. Proposals for new fully online courses to be offered in the summer session are due to the Distance and Blended Learning Committee on November 1; Debra Hydorn (the Committee chair) previously sent out application information to all faculty.

Finally, results from the past four years also reveal the continuing need to be careful about the total number of courses we initially put up so that we avoid having to cancel so many classes. Canceling classes causes problems for students and faculty. While the number of courses that had to be canceled last summer declined, 15% of the courses initially proposed (27 classes in all) did not achieve the necessary enrollment minimums and had to be canceled.

The overall summer session enrollment matters because summer session revenues provide support to ongoing operations at the University (and summer revenue is not just applied toward the costs of running the summer session). Enrollment declines, therefore, do have far reaching consequences.

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