Rising tuition makes intersession and online courses a priority

The UConn Bursar's Office Dec. 6, 2016.  The Bursar's office manages student tuition which continues to rise.  This rise has motivated students to try and graduate earlier by taking online and intersession courses.  (Amar Batra/ The Daily Campus) 

As tuition continues to rise at the University of Connecticut, more students seek to graduate early in order to save time and money. Intersession courses are vital to early graduation, with Winter Session courses providing a convenient way to earn credits at an accelerated pace. However, prohibitive cost continues to limit the feasibility of using these courses to facilitate accelerated, affordable graduation. UConn must seek to reduce the cost of online intersession courses, while ensuring general education requirements are included in the slate of courses offered.

This year, the university reported an increase of 10 percent in enrollment for online courses offered during the upcoming Winter Session. According to Daily Campus coverage by reporter Emma Casagrande, “1,675 students have enrolled in winter classes, with 1,300 opting to take online classes…”. The substantial enrollment in online intersession courses is beneficial to UConn’s student body, as online courses offer a great deal of flexibility, and remove the added cost of remaining on campus during Winter Session.

However, as of this coming Winter Session, online courses actually cost more than in-person courses. The Office of Summer and Winter Programs lists a winter online course as costing $1,542 per student, with in-person courses costing $1,482 for the same three-week period. Even with the additional need for online software capable of handling the instruction of large courses, the lack of facilities use and other conveniences afforded by online instruction should mean reduced cost.

Though online courses have a lower cost once room and board, or commuting, are figured in, UConn should be exploring all available options to make online intersession courses a substantially more affordable option than in-person counterparts. The benefits of using pre-recorded video lessons for portions of online courses clearly offer a more efficient use of instructor time, and should therefore aid in reducing cost.

As the cost of attendance at UConn continues to rise, online courses—especially during Winter Session periods—will grow in popularity as a cost-reduction method. Summer months are occupied by working or through internships, and thus the shorter winter intersession provides the ideal time to earn necessary credits.

A student interviewed in the Daily Campus article noted his use of the Winter Session period to complete general education requirements. General education courses generally have high student enrollment, and thus online courses offer the ability to instruct a large number of students without the confines of limited classroom space. Using online courses to provide instruction in courses required for most of the student population will help to reduce costs to the university, increase convenience and accelerate graduation for some.

The growth in Winter Session courses represents a shifting trend in higher education, in which rising costs and a competitive job market make accelerated graduation a necessity for some. The university should continue to lower the cost of online courses taught during this period to aid students in seeking the low-cost benefits of a public university.