For the second year in a row, UCI is cutting a special deal for undergraduate students with the Pay for 8 summer program, in which students only need to pay for eight units each session. Posters have popped up all across campus to publicize the deal, and informational booths and flyers have more students than usual buzzing about spending their summer on campus. But while the price cut is undeniably nice, enrolling in summer classes may not be as cost-efficient or beneficial as it may seem.
It is true that taking summer classes may help alleviate pressure during the school year but it comes at a price that not everyone can pay. Many students look to summer classes as a way to cut costs in the long run by hopefully graduating early and expediting their undergraduate careers. As someone who was interested in taking advantage of Pay for 8, my primary concern was affordability. Staying on campus for the summer means not only paying for the classes themselves, but also rent and books.
When I went into the financial aid office to find out what I could do to minimize the draining of my bank account, I was essentially told that the only option available to most students was to take out a loan to cover the costs. This meant I had to find a way to pay the $2,359 for the classes (had I decided to do the full eight) on top of rent for the duration of the session.
That was not very appealing to someone already concerned about mounting school loans.
While cost was my primary concern, a glance at the roster of classes offered was what really drove me away from signing up for summer session. As a double humanities major, my options, for the most part, were limited to the most basic lower-division classes, many of which I had already taken. Understandably, there are a lot fewer options in classes during the summer, since many professors are also away for break. However, overwhelmingly, the classes offered are geared toward STEM students, leaving the rest of us few opportunities to really take advantage of the Pay for 8 deal. The deal would not have made any significant difference for me as a humanities student; my limited class options would have meant I would only be taking eight units for any given session and paying full price for my classes.
Since the idea of going into further debt for classes that I could easily take during the school year did not interest me, I decided to forego the units, which left me a lot of extra free time during the summer to pursue other endeavors. For me, that meant landing my first big internship in college. It was a blessing in disguise, as not having classes led to other opportunities that
I wouldn’t have been able to take part in otherwise.
While enrolling in summer session may make for an easier time during the school year and potentially lead to an earlier graduation date, taking summer classes also cuts into the time a student has to build up a resume in college. Summer internships are prime ways for a college student to get work experience under their belt before heading off into the workforce. Choosing to take classes instead of partaking in an internship or job is a trade-off that may actually be more harmful than helpful. Considering an increasingly competitive job market, a recent Forbes article cites that employers are looking more for experience in recent college graduates than high GPAs. Choosing to spend the summer taking classes rather than investing that time in a job or internship may actually impede your ability to find a job straight out of school.
UCI has done a good job attempting to sweeten the idea of taking classes over the summer with the Pay for 8 deal. While many students choose to take advantage of the program for various reasons, for students who do not absolutely need to take summer classes, the best option both financially and in terms of preparation for post-undergrad life may very well be skipping out.
Ashley Duong is a second-year philosophy and literary journalism double major. She can be reached at email@example.com.