College of Natural Sciences to offer fewer summer courses

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The College of Natural Sciences will be offering about one-third fewer courses in summer 2015, according to the college's dean, Linda Hicke.

Last week, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost announced that it is cutting the Summer Enhancement Program, which was designed to expand and improve summer course offerings of colleges at the University.

“After several years it became clear that the program did not have the desired campus-wide impact and it has been discontinued,” Gregory Fenves, executive vice president and provost, said in a statement. “We are looking into alternative solutions to enhancing the instructional budget that better meet the needs of our students and achieving our goals for graduation rates.”

Fenves said colleges may still continue to fund their own summer courses necessary to support their degree plans, but budget constraints may make this a challenge. Hicke said enrollment in the College of Natural Sciences has increased about 25 percent over the last six or seven years, while the amount of money in the college’s budget has remained the same.

“It is a challenge to change those budgets when enrollment increases significantly,” Hicke said.

She said shifts in college budgets usually occur when there are significant changes in population, but it takes time to receive more funding to reflect the population growth. Hicke said cutting the amount of summer courses should not impact graduation rates.

“We are being as efficient as possible across the entire college; we make every effort to have classes available for students to graduate on time,” Hicke said.

Arturo De Lozanne, molecular biosciences associate professor, said he thinks decreasing the number of courses offered during the summer semester will make it harder for students to graduate on time.

“Some students have to take courses in the summer in order to be able to complete their degrees,” De Lozanne said. “That means, if a student cannot take those courses, they will have to wait and register for the long semester and therefore delay their graduation.”

Biochemistry senior Kathryn McElhinney said she thinks many students use the summer as an opportunity to take fewer, more difficult courses.

“A lot of students take those more difficult courses over the summer so they don’t have to try and balance five courses along with this really hard subject,” McElhinney said. “Instead, they can dedicate all their time trying to study it.”

The cuts could potentially decrease the number of teaching assistant positions, according to De Lozanne.

“I was very puzzled by it because it seems very clear that it will affect many students — not only undergraduate students but also graduate students — because that means fewer graduate students will have TA positions in the summer,” De Lozanne said.