Summer school enrollment at UC Berkeley another record breaker

Once again, enrollment for summer school at the University of California, Berkeley, is projected to be a record-breaker. More than 15,000 students – including more than 2,700  international scholars  – are expected to sign up for classes and, in the case of incoming freshmen, get a head start on their peers who are arriving in the fall.

Compared to this time last year, enrollment is up for UC Berkeley’s Summer Sessions, which are comprised of five staggered periods that begin today (Monday, May 23) and end in mid-August. Courses offered this summer range from calculus and freshman composition to “Earthquakes in your Backyard,” Human Happiness” and “The Food Industry vs. Local Food Movements.”

“I thought we had peaked last year, but it looks like enrollment this summer is going to exceed 15,000,”  said Richard Russo, director of the program and newly appointed dean of Summer Sessions, Berkeley Study Abroad and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  At least 1,500 enrollments are anticipated for Summer Sessions’ eight online courses.

Language classes appear to be a big driver for the uptick in summer enrollment, Russo said. For example, Session B, which starts June 6 and is almost exclusively made up of intensive language courses, has seen an 80 percent increase in enrollment since last year. Also popular is the three-week Session E, which offers English as a Second Language courses.

Another incentive for taking summer courses is the comparative affordability. All students, including international and out-of-state residents, pay resident tuition in the summer and are not subject to fee hikes that go into effect in the fall. Typically, a UC student taking two courses this summer will pay between $2,200 and $2,900 in tuition costs. As for students visiting from overseas for a six-week summer session, tuition, fees and housing amount to around $5,000, Russo said.

So high is the demand from visiting students that summer enrollment is threatening to outpace available living accommodations in Berkeley, Russo said. From campus residence halls to International House to the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, beds are filling fast. More than 3,500 enrollees this summer are non UC-students.

UC Berkeley’s rapidly expanding summer program is a money maker not just for the campus, but for the city of Berkeley, said Russo, who took the helm of Summer Sessions five years ago after running a successful program at Boston University.

Food outlets around campus still doing a brisk business

“We create an entire economy for the Berkeley area in the summer,” Russo said. “We bring 15,000 bodies here, we fill up every bed, we’re employing thousands of instructors and graduate  students, and the students need textbooks and food services. Berkeley would be severely affected without Summer Sessions.”

UC Berkeley Summer Sessions offers more than 600 courses during five sessions that range in length from three to 10 weeks. In addition to courses, students can sign up for international travel study, internships and a pre-collegiate program for high school students. Enrollment opens in February.

UC students pay $343 per unit during Summer Sessions. Financial aid and Pell Grants are available to low-income students. For more information, visit the UC Berkeley Summer Sessions website.

Reading and composition, business and science, math and statistics courses remain popular. Courses with intriguing titles this year include “American Popular Culture: Shopping and American Consumerism”, “Women of Color in the United States” and “Broadway Musicals.”

UC Berkeley’s Summer Sessions was launched in 1900 with 37 courses and 433 students. Faculty typically make up 10 percent of Summer Sessions instructors, with lecturers and graduate student instructors comprising the remainder.

UC Berkeley students make up 75 percent of summer scholars. The remaining 25 percent of summer students include visitors from other institutions and other adult learners. Study abroad and internship opportunities this summer were available in Madrid, Dublin and London.

Summer Sessions, Study Abroad and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute were previously separate programs, but have recently been consolidated under Russo’s administrative leadership.

One of Russo’s goals is to triple the number of undergraduates who study abroad by securing more exchange agreements with top-flight universities and cutting down on the paperwork required to transfer credits.

The number of UC Berkeley students studying abroad in the 2009-10 academic year was 1,122.

“We’re a leader in everything else. Why shouldn’t we offer an international experience to every undergraduate student that wants one? Russo asked.