Campus Beat Reporter
On May 5, an email was sent out to all students stating that both Summer sessions (A and B) would be delivered fully online. The Freshmen Summer Start Program (FSSP) will still continue as planned, but it’s unclear how this will function online. Since the email, there have been lots of contemplating on whether or not tuition will be lowered as a result of this new method of instruction. As of now, speculation suggests tuition will not be lowered, despite fully transitioning to online instruction.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Leesa Beck, director of Summer Sessions, spoke about the reasoning behind this circumstance and how the office is adapting. “Unfortunately, our office has very limited control over the larger fees, and those are set by the UC Regents.”
Despite this, Summer Sessions controls local fees, like those for FSSP and transfer programs. The office has decided to waive the fees for these programs. “We are actively trying to make these programs more accessible/affordable to all,” said Beck.
To help with lowering problematic housing costs, the office is “expanding its summer housing incentive to all students.” Previously, the incentive was only open to students who were enrolled in 12 or more units, scholarship eligible, and living on campus, but now students who are living off campus or even out of the area are welcome to apply. These students qualify for up to $500 in aid.
To help with the general fees for classes, Summer Sessions is actively working with other on-campus entities in lowering the costs for summer. “We want to help new students transition successfully, so we are reimbursing unit fees for INT W20, W188C, and W188E,” Beck said.
Financial Aid is offering students need-based vouchers which can be used to get free courses. Additional student aid is also being allocated to students who need it.
Beck stated that despite predictions, summer enrollment has increased by 20 percent.
“I was expecting to see a drop, given that students may not be able to pay for online or like remote work. However, students are hoping to do other things in summer, and things are falling through so they might as well take classes. For those who don’t finish classes in the spring, now they do not have to wait for fall,” she said.
On top of this, the office is working hard to hire professors who can teach more classes, as well as offer spots in classes that are full. “Online does allow us to be flexible. Those fixed unit fees students pay go towards hiring more instructors.” Though these fees are rising, the cost ultimately ensures that there are enough courses available.
Beck spoke about the transition to online and the initial difficulty of it all. “I was a theatre major in college, so I know the importance of having certain classes in person. I pushed for session B to be in person but that didn’t happen,” she said.
With that being said, even STEM classes with labs are transitioning well to online. UCSB’s instructional department is ensuring that all instructors are adequately prepared.
As far as FSSP, the social element and the ability to live with fellow students is a major component to freshmen transitions, and with online instruction, the social element risks becoming obsolete.
“To help with this, we have hired a number of students to plan virtual programs for freshmen, such as scavenger hunts and cooking classes. We are actively working to create the same experience. Our office does a bulk of the work, but student help is beneficial,” Beck explained.
Finally, Beck talked about the scenario of students deciding to take community college classes to save money (sometimes thousands of dollars).
“It’s great that students want to come here, and we want to bring opportunities to UCSB students. However, it’s important that students do what they need. If a student wants to take a course at a community college or another UC, I am supportive,” she said. “As a former registrar, I recommended this to students to ensure they were getting the resources they need, and finances shouldn’t be a barrier. We want students to get through the pipeline and reach their educational goals.”
Overall, Summer Sessions is working to prepare its staff for the transition and ensure that students have equal access to summer courses, despite financial barriers that arise.