Berkeley - Low fees and attractive course offerings are drawing a record crowd to the University of California, Berkeley's Summer Sessions this year, where the number of UC students enrolling is expected to top 40 percent of regular term enrollment for the first time in the program's 103-year history. The large enrollment is exceeding ambitious targets and helping to absorb California's tremendous "Tidal Wave II" surge in the number of college-age students now hitting state schools, said Gary Penders, director of UC Berkeley Summer Sessions.
"We're already about a thousand Berkeley undergraduates ahead of last year at this time, which is extraordinary," Penders said.
While UC Berkeley's summer courses, which begin May 28, attract many people for many reasons, most of the five sessions are filled by students from UC Berkeley and other UC campuses who are seeking to complete a class or gain entry to high-demand courses offered in particular majors. The 40 percent figure this year is based on a total enrollment for the sessions, which last between three and eight weeks, of at least 9,000 students - up from 8,000 last year. This far exceeds the 25 percent average for summer programs across the UC system. Total UC Berkeley enrollment overall this summer, including UC and non-UC students, may be as high as 13,500 students.
Reasons for the increase include funds provided by the state legislature, once again, to waive the $325 summer registration fee and most lab fees for UC students. Registration shot up accordingly, proving that the word is out on the great summer deal, offered in hopes of meeting the challenges of Tidal Wave II. Tidal Wave II will add as many as 60,000 students to the UC system by 2010, roughly a 40 percent increase for the already heavily utilized university system.
UC Berkeley, a campus long considered at or beyond its enrollment capacity, given its location and space constraints, was allotted 4,000 students per year as its share of the Tidal Wave II increase. Since summer enrollment is one way the campus can accommodate more students while maintaining a manageable size and meeting its various agreements with the city of Berkeley, the hope is that campus students will complete more of their credits during summer. Should summer session growth continue on its current trajectory for the next few years, Penders believes the campus soon might achieve nearly 75 percent of the target figure through summer offerings alone.
Finishing one or two courses over the summer can sometimes mean graduating early by an entire semester, saving students and parents considerably in fees and living expenses. While a goal of the program is shortening the time it takes a student to graduate from UC Berkeley, Summer Sessions also is attractive for unique course offerings, such as immersion classes in foreign languages. Summer course offerings substantially reduce the impact of crowding on key courses during the fall and spring terms and, by midsummer, all UC Berkeley classrooms will be in use during the peak hours of the day to meet course demand.
Besides the outright fee subsidy, another reason for the increase in students on campus this summer is "fear of fees," said Penders, who became head of Berkeley Summer Sessions in 1993. "Students know there is a lot of pressure coming down on the state budget right now," he said. "They are concerned that fees will go up. Last time we had a recession, sometimes fees went up even after students paid them. They don't know what's going to happen - they only know it's never going to be cheaper than it is now."
Programs offered by Summer Sessions in previous years will continue to draw students this season. People ages 55 and older can pay just $25 for a senior audit card, which allows them to audit any class during Summer Sessions, with the instructor's permission. The 100 Scholars Program continues, allowing 100 teachers from four unified school districts - Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and West Contra Costa - to take summer courses at substantially reduced rates.
For a listing of Summer Sessions offerings, as well as other UC Berkeley summer information, go to http://summer.berkeley.edu/.