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October 9, 1997

Summer enrollment up in credits, students for 1st time since '80s

For the first time since the 1980s, summer enrollment increased this year both in terms of the total number of students (13,198, a 0.06 percent increase over summer 1996) and total credits taken (83,906, up by 1.5 percent) at Pitt's five campuses, according to the Office of University Summer Sessions and Continuing Education.

Increased graduate enrollments accounted for most of the growth, said Darlene Zellers Samelko, the office's founding director, who was promoted to associate dean of the College of General Studies last month when her office was made part of CGS.

The University administration created the office two years ago to coordinate efforts to boost Pitt's summer enrollments, which had declined from 89,554 credits taken in 1992 to 80,615 credits in 1995.

University administrators say credit totals are the best measurement for enrollment because the numbers aren't skewed by tuition hikes or year-to-year changes in the percentages of full- and part-time students.

In a report to the University Senate budget policies committee at its Sept. 26 meeting, Samelko noted that graduate enrollments are increasing nationwide, especially among older, part-time students. And Pitt is offering a greater number and variety of graduate courses during the summer, she said.

"It's a national trend: More graduate students are taking classes in the summer, while undergraduate enrollments are down," Samelko said.

Undergraduate summer enrollment at Pitt in 1997 declined by 2 percent both in total number of students (6,070) and credits taken (36,155), continuing a multi-year trend of sagging undergraduate enrollments here during the summer.

But at least the percentage drop in undergraduates has slowed in the last two years, thanks largely to the University's success in recruiting more non-Pitt "visiting students," Samelko said. Visiting student enrollment increased from 1,791 credits taken in summer 1995 to 3,047 credits in 1997 — "and that's just the tip of the iceberg, in my opinion," Samelko told the budget policies committee. "I think we can easily double our visiting student enrollments within the next couple of years." Last summer, 659 visiting students took classes at Pitt; 139 were from Carnegie Mellon University and 109 were from Duquesne. Samelko said her office has targeted those two schools in particular in recruiting visiting students.

"We have significant advantages in our local market due to our [comparatively lower] tuition rates, depth and breadth of summer courses, ease of access to enroll during the summer and our university status," stated a report that Samelko distributed to budget policies committee members.

Next summer, Pitt hopes to launch a Summer College for High School Students through which students would earn college credits while still in high school. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Honors College and the University Center for International Studies are collaborating on the project, Samelko said. "The goal of this program is to provide an innovative and challenging academic enrichment program for high school students and potentially attract high-achieving students to our traditional degree programs," she reported.

Samelko also said her office will work with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the education school to create a University Summer Teachers Institute that would offer immersion programs in foreign languages and other subjects, beginning in 1999.

In 1996, Pitt instituted two major changes in its summer programs, Samelko pointed out: * To encourage innovative course offerings, Pitt replaced its traditional summer calendar (one 14-week term plus two seven-week sessions) with a wider range of options. Schools and departments could continue to follow the traditional term and/or choose among seven shorter sessions. "The one criticism we've received is that there are now too many sessions," Samelko said. "We're hoping the less popular ones will die off over time." * Pitt introduced an optional profit-sharing plan. Schools and departments that participate in the plan may keep 50 percent of increases in tuition revenues. Units are rewarded for their total production of credits, not the number of their own students who enroll in courses the unit offers. Thus, the English department gets a financial reward based on the total number of students enrolled in its summer classes, not just the number of English majors in those classes, Samelko said.

So far, the Bradford and Titusville campuses, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education and the School of Information Sciences have chosen to participate in the plan.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 30 Issue 4

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