ABC News On Campus Reporter Maxine Park blogs:
School’s out for the summer — really.
Administrators at Arizona State University are not sure they’ll reach their target enrollment for summer classes, though exact 2009 figures are not yet available. For many students and professors, the economic slump is to blame for the empty chairs in summer classrooms.
Liz Lastra, a 26-year-old journalism major who works full time as a server at a local restaurant, had signed up for a summer internship, but decided to drop it at the last minute.
“One credit alone for summer school is $450, so either I can pay my mortgage or take summer school,” Lastra said. “It’s really sad because I don’t want to put off my education, but I have to.”
According to the Office of Institutional Analysis at ASU, a total of 21,807 students signed up for summer school in 2008. Figures for this summer won’t be available until the fall, but officials said their expectations are much different.
Vice Provost Sheila Ainlay said they are retaining more students than in the past but the economy is a factor they’ve never had to deal with before.
“We can’t speculate right now with the way things are,” Ainlay said. “Enrollment is as high as we anticipated, but we’re not sure if it’ll reach last year’s numbers.”
Dr. Joseph Russomano, a professor of mass communication law at ASU, said enrollment in his summer class is the lowest he’s seen in his 15 years at the school.
“I have eight students in my class,” Russomano said. “This is largely unprecedented and the correlation between the economy and the decrease in summer enrollment seems too coincidental for it not to be the reason.”
Miriam LeBron, 20, a bioscience major at ASU, is taking a class at neighboring Glendale Community College. She said she’s noticed several familiar faces in her class.
“A lot of the kids in my chemistry class here are from ASU,” LeBron said. “We’re all here because of the tuition. No one can afford it at ASU.”
LeBron said she’s happy to be able to get some credits in during the summer but hopes that taking classes at a community college won’t hurt her in the future.
“I’m a bioscience major on track for pre-med and it may look bad to have taken a class at community college,” LeBron said. “Some medical schools don’t accept community college credit, so that scares me, but ultimately I had no choice.”
But Matthew Croucher, an economist at the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU, said the low numbers of students signing up for summer classes are not just tuition related.
“The students who normally take summer session classes are students who want to ‘get ahead’ and finish their degree in less than four years,” Croucher said. “Given the state of the economy, there is somewhat less of an incentive to finish early.”
But Croucher said this downturn in the economy can teach people a valuable lesson.
“It teaches people the value of a good education,” Croucher said. “When the economy rebounds and it will rebound, those individuals with a good level of education will potentially benefit first.”