Summer term success

Many folks across campus have worked this past year to think strategically and help redesign our summer term offerings. We’ve just finished the first summer of our new summer term and the results were highly successful.

This summer, undergraduate enrollment increased 10 percent from 2015 to more than 6,800. That growth is the result of a concerted effort to make our summer offerings more useful to a larger number of students, and it all began by listening to students.

Responding to a survey last fall, students told us that summer term’s accelerated courses help them graduate on schedule. By staying on track, they save money on tuition and rent, and enter the workforce faster.

Students expressed interest in the opportunity to focus on challenging degree requirements outside of the normal fall/spring timetable. They also wanted more chances to prepare for future careers with hands-on learning.

As we sat down to plan Summer Term 2016, people across the campus paid attention to this valuable input and responded. Academic departments offered more high-demand courses that students need to satisfy curricular requirements, including Anatomy 328: Human Anatomy and Biochemistry 501: Introduction to Biochemistry. Altogether, Summer Term 2016 featured 71 new courses, plus real-world training such as a legislative internship in Washington, D.C., and a field course in archeology.

Clearly, the students who benefit most from graduating on schedule and saving money are those with documented financial need. That’s why our academic advisers suggested increasing summer scholarships tenfold. We awarded $250,000 to 225 students in amounts ranging from $500 to $1,500.

Those who remained here were reminded of Madison’s special summertime charm. But others had travel plans or work responsibilities, so departments added more online learning options to serve students anywhere in the world. They flocked to such courses as Economics 101: Principles of Microeconomics and Political Science 317: The Politics of Human Rights, both offered online for the first time. Enrollment in online courses increased 40 percent over summer 2015 to more than 4,600.

Not only were more UW-Madison students attracted to summer term, so too were students from other schools. They told us they came to UW to get requirements out of the way, take courses that aren’t available at their home institutions, or merely sample our world-class resources. More than 1,300 of these special students enrolled in a UW-Madison course this summer.

With these increased enrollments come new revenues — an increase of approximately $4 million in 2016. Roughly 80 percent of those funds will stay with the schools, colleges and academic departments. Everyone at this university knows how badly our departments need new funding. By rewarding units that respond to changing student demands, we encourage entrepreneurial activity while also better managing costs.

We’ve been operating on an agricultural schedule since our founding 168 years ago. When UW was created, most students were expected to return to help on the farm in the summer. Some of our students still do that, but many want flexibility. They plan to go away for an internship or a semester abroad and want to attend school in the summer to stay on track to graduate on time. They want to finish in less than four years. They want to explore classes that they couldn’t fit into their schedule otherwise. Or they have better work options in the winter or spring, and want that to be their “semester off” rather than the summertime.

We’re already looking ahead to next year’s summer term. We plan to offer more of the courses students need, along with even more courses in flexible formats. In the process, we’ll put UW-Madison on firmer financial footing and sustain our reputation as one of the world’s greatest educational institutions, no matter the season.