For Summer Sessions, it’s a whole new game
Enrollment climbs as program absorbs Tidal Wave II increases

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

06 June 2001 | As head of Berkeley’s annual summer school, Summer Sessions Director Gary Penders takes a keen interest in expenditure versus revenue figures indicating the financial health of his self-supporting program.

This year, however, it’s been the yellow line, even more than the bottom line, that has commanded Penders’ attention.

That’s the line graphing week-by-week registration figures. And with Summer Sessions slated to grow by as much as 40 percent — in order to help the campus absorb Tidal Wave II enrollment increases — 2001 is a watershed year for the 102-year old academic program.

“At one point we were 100 percent ahead (of registrations for the same week last year),” Penders said recently, eyeing the steep yellow line on his 2001 registration graph. “…This is the fastest start out of the gate … that I’ve seen in 30 years.”

An administrator of summer academic programs at San Francisco State and UCLA before he became head of Berkeley Summer Sessions in 1993, Penders has seen and overseen both planned and unexpected developments in such programs, but none as profound as this year’s sea change.

Berkeley Summer Sessions courses attract a wide variety of people, including members of the public seeking job advancement, personal enrichment or prerequisites for a future degree, as well as seniors taking advantage of Summer Sessions’ generous senior audit program.

Most of its slots, however, are still filled by students from Berkeley and other UC campuses seeking to accumulate units, raise their grade-point averages or complete high-demand gateway courses.

In a typical year, in fact, 39 percent of Berkeley undergraduates enroll in Summer Sessions — far more than the 25 percent average for summer programs across the UC system.
Since summer enrollment is one way that the campus can accommodate more students while maintaining its agreements with the city of Berkeley, the hope is that campus students will complete more of their credits during summer.

“How many more students can we attract?” asks Penders. “We’re going to answer that this year. We’ll see what is the maximum or near-maximum size.”

The state legislature this year provided funds to waive the $325 registration fee, as well as most lab fees, for UC students — and registration has shot up accordingly.

Penders anticipates that total enrollment for the five three- to eight-week “sessions” at 14,000, up from 12,800 last year. Of that number, 10,500 are Berkeley students, up from 9,150 a year ago.

With dozens of new classes and sections now on the program, and many classrooms in buildings being retrofitted, the program faces unprecedented scheduling and room-assignment challenges.

Classes are being held in every general-assignment classroom on campus between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Penders says. And some of those rooms will be used again for late afternoon and early evening classes.

The program has also had to beef up its advertising campaign. This summer’s arsenal of promotional products includes 3,500 T-shirts and at least as many fist-sized stress balls in the shape of a human brain, bearing Summer Sessions’ Web address (; one shrink-wrapped bus; and a 61-second radio spot written and performed by the Men’s Octet: “…There’s open enrollment/so anyone can come,/a parent, a student,/or even a nun…”

“I think the state funding this year, which reduced fees for UC students, is going to bring in the highest possible number of students we can get,” says Penders.

To increase even more will require creative changes to the program — possibly including weekend, evening and/or “Winter Session” classes, he says. “We have to do a lot of work in order to increase enrollment.”


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