So far, the University has mostly responded to the financial crisis by making cuts, but now there is a chance that new programs may be created to increase revenue. Administrators have begun to consider alternative methods of generating revenue without further budget cuts. One such alternative includes a program already in place at other schools around the country: a summer program for current undergrads.
Charles Salas, Wesleyan’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, stated in an email to the Argus that a summer semester would be targeted primarily at first and second year students. If passed, he hopes that the proposed program will allow the University to raise revenue and enrich students’ academic experience by allowing for curricular flexibility.
As a member of the Budget Priorities Committee, which considers the broad decisions that are a part of structuring the budget, Professor Joe Rouse has participated in the discussions of a possible summer program at Wesleyan.
“There comes a point when cutting the budget is less and less attractive, and finding ways of enhancing revenue is more attractive,” Rouse said. “[A summer program is] one among many possibilities. But it is in the abstract a promising possibility. We’re at the stage now of asking what form might it actually take.”
During President Michael Roth’s first summer at Wesleyan, he realized the potential resources available on campus during the summer months. The University began to explore this concept soon after.
According to Salas, a summer semester at Wesleyan would be eight and a half weeks, stretching from June to August. Three courses would constitute a full load and students would ideally be able to choose from a variety of classes. According to Salas, the proposed summer semester could be implemented as early as summer 2010. He says that there are a variety of logistical issues that need to be resolved, including the distribution of financial aid.
The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) discussed possibilities for utilizing the Wesleyan campus over the summer during their Feb. 15 meeting. WSA President Mike Pernick ’10 and David Markowitz ’11 introduced models in place at other schools and members discussed what would be desirable for students.
“It’s a slow process because it is an overwhelming and fundamental change to use the summer effectively at Wesleyan,” Pernick said.
According to Rouse, the first steps in advancing the idea of a summer semester involve consulting the numerous groups that would be involved and gathering a financial analysis in order to begin formulating what the semester might entail.
After a meeting on Thursday to discuss the desirability, feasibility and logistics of a summer program, Salas will now begin generating economic models for the various conditions involved in a summer semester. According to Salas, a minimum of 300 students would be necessary to balance expenses associated with running Usdan, Freeman Athletic Center, health facilities, libraries and Internet Technology Services.
“Ideally there would be many more students than that,” he said.
The ultimate effect that a summer program could have is unclear. Rouse, Pernick and Salas all stress that a project like this is only viable if it is advantageous for the University’s finances as well as for the quality of student life.
“The key point that we got from [the WSA] meeting was that students love having academic flexibility and are open to the possibility of having more flexibility in the way in which they go through their academic career at Wesleyan,” Pernick said.
One source of concern raised at the WSA meeting was the possibility of a mandatory summer session, similar to Dartmouth. Salas stated that while this model has its advantages, it is not being considered as a possibility for Wesleyan.
“The biggest fear that students have is a fear of any required summers, which might work for Dartmouth or Stanford, but not Wesleyan,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense for Wesleyan to require students to stay for the summer; no one thinks we should go down that road. But students are excited about staying over the summer and pursuing academic and research opportunities.”
At present, the Wesleyan campus is used at a minimal level over the summer. Wesleyan students staying on campus over the summer participate in research grants, science programs or a Graduate Liberal Studies Program. The campus is used for non-Wesleyan individuals as well and for sports camps. This summer, the film center will host a variety of programs, including a film festival, increased use of Frank Capra’s archives, and a screenwriting program that will be organized by the GLSP.
The majority of the programs taking place over the summer at Wesleyan do not involve Wesleyan students, and while they have a net positive financial impact, the University does not make much off of these programs.
“[The campus is] used, but in terms of revenue, it doesn’t provide a source of revenue and current students don’t make use of Wesleyan because there aren’t many opportunities,” Pernick said.
Providing the opportunity to study over the summer could allow students to take over-subscribed courses they might not have had access to, take a semester off, graduate early, or save money and obtain internships in the fall and spring, at a time when they are less competitive than those available in the summer. Some of the program’s planners hope that a summer semester could ease the pressures caused by the planned increase in enrollment by spreading more students throughout the entire year.
“[A summer program] might provide greater flexibility for students either in planning their own course work and/or integrating other activities outside Wesleyan [like] internships, study abroad or taking time off,” Rouse said. “[Without it] there are not a lot of options for that other than going to other institutions.”