Panel: School’s Not Out for Summer: Evaluating Summer Course Taking As a Means to Timely Graduation

Saturday, November 9, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Governor's Square 16 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Sabrina M. Solanki, University of California, Irvine
Panel Chair:  Stacey L. Brockman, University of Michigan
Discussant:  Yuen Ting (Vivian) Liu, Columbia University

Today, less than 50% of full-time students enrolled in four-year degree-granting institutions graduate within four years. In fact, bachelor’s degree earners take on average 5.1 academic years to earn their degree (National Student Clearinghouse, 2016). Lengthy time to degree is not only directly related to student success, such as increased likelihood of degree completion, but also to college costs. With each additional semester of enrollment students forfeit wages and institutions devote resources that would otherwise be allocated to new students. Understanding ways to foster timely graduation is an important topic to address for both researchers and institutional administrators; further, it is of particular interest to policymakers focused on facilitating the U.S. college completion agenda.

Of the ways to increase timely graduation, encouraging students to enroll in courses over the summer has been gaining more attention among researchers and policymakers. Increased credit attainment in the summer has a number of potential advantages. First, and the most obvious, summer enrollees can earn additional credits, allowing them to more quickly progress toward a degree, recover lost credits due to failing or withdrawing from a class, or accumulate necessary credits after a major switch. Second, the summer term also bridges the gap between the fall and spring semesters which has been found to be a time of transition, and a likely time for dropout. Finally, if summer enrollment can substitute for future academic-year enrollment, students can more quickly enter full-time, year-round employment. Lost wages from potential summer employment will be more than offset from full time employment.

This panel contributes to the small but growing body of work about effective strategies and the role of financial aid to increase summer enrollment for college students. Together, the papers in this panel examine the idea of summer course taking as a way to promote student success in college. Because each paper is unique, the panel offers diverse perspectives on this issue. For example, the panel includes papers about summer session at both the two-year broad access college sector and the large public four-year University setting. A myriad of student outcomes are also discussed such as increased credit accumulation, persistence in college, transfer rates to four-year colleges, and college completion. Lastly, each paper estimates the impact of a distinct and novel summer enrollment strategy on student outcomes using a research design that supports causal inference. Overall, these strategies show promise. This panel therefore has the potential to inform institutional administrators about ways to improvefinancial aid policies and communication about the summer term to increase summer enrollment and student academic outcomes in college.

Making Summer Pay Off: Using Behavioral Science to Encourage Postsecondary Summer Enrollment
Michael Weiss, Camielle Headlam, Caitlin Anzelone and Kayla Reiman, MDRC

The Effects of Free Classes over the Summer: A Fee Incentive Program Aimed to Increase Enrollment in Summer Courses
Di Xu1, Rachel Baker2 and Sabrina M. Solanki1, (1)University of California, Irvine, (2)Stanford University

The Impact of Summer School on Community College Student Success
Andy Brownback, University of Arkansas and Sally Sadoff, University of California, San Diego

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