April 30, 2018

Think summer for college savings opportunities

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — How do you reduce college expenses while at the same time smoothing class-scheduling bottlenecks?

The traditional way is to take summer classes and earn advance placement credit. A newer way is to start during summer while you are still a high school student, or if you've had your graduation party, to start college in July.

Purdue, which has offered both opportunities in modest ways, is ramping them up.

"The high school program is modeled after a few others," said John Gipson, Purdue's director of summer session. "Harvard's in only three years has grown to 1,500 students, and Brown University has 5,000." Until last year, Purdue had averaged 10.

"This summer we are sure to surpass our goal of 50, and next year we will reserve at least 100 beds in our residence halls for high school students who want to live on campus," he said.

Eligible high school students who have completed their sophomore year and are at least 16 years old can enroll in up to seven credit hours each summer as non-degree students and take any of 37 online courses and approximately 75 on-campus courses. Space remains for this summer.

The credits earned can be used toward a Purdue degree or may be transferred to another college or university. The grade point average for their courses also will be part of their academic record should they enroll at Purdue or transfer the credits.

Purdue's program, called Summer College for High School Students, offers 4-, 8- and 12-week courses. The new residential component next year will be offered for four weeks in July to early August.

"That will be the right amount of time for one three-credit course or up to four one-week, one-credit opportunities, such as the ones in the works focusing on data science," Gipson said. 

Among the high school students on campus this summer, 20 will be flying high. These students will be completing their pilot licenses with Purdue's School of Aviation and Transportation Technology, thanks to a partnership with the Air Force.

Other departments are getting creative as well. For 2019, an intensive one-week class modeled on the United Nations will be offered by faculty in political science.

"This not only is a good way for the department to engage these students, but it also helps students consider their major when the time comes to apply to college," Gipson said.

Purdue also is expanding its offerings of what it calls "early start" summer courses. In this case, Boilermakers who have been admitted to Purdue can get a jump-start by taking classes the summer after they graduate from high school.

Purdue engineering plans to expand its early-start program in 2019. As part of this program, students take ENGR 131, an obligatory introductory course for all beginning engineering students, a career exploration seminar, and an oral or written communication class to get a head start in their first semester of engineering at Purdue.

This could reduce time to graduation or give students more flexibility with their class schedule later.

"Changing a culture, though, is challenging," said Eckhard Groll, associate dean of undergraduate and graduate education in the College of Engineering and the Reilly Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "Students' parents didn't do this, so most don't consider it in lieu of, say, a family summer vacation."

Purdue Engineering expects 2,200 first-year students to start in the fall. This summer, ENGR 131 has seats for 60 of them, but plans to at least double that for 2019.

Purdue's Polytechnic Institute also provides an early-start option for students who are admitted to its professional flight program, already have a private pilot certificate and want to get a jump on their subsequent flight training.

"Flight is so weather-dependent that it makes sense to take these classes in the summer when the days are long and the weather is cooperative," Gipson says.

The College of Education offers two early-start classes, the Honors College offers one, and all incoming first-year students, regardless of major, are welcome to take classes in two of their core requirements in the session from July 9 to Aug. 10.

Early start also is an idea starting to catch on around the country.

"Penn State has done quite a bit of early summer start," Groll says. "It's the Big Ten leader."

“While students in the early-start summer classes can find housing in residence halls, they also might look to sublet an apartment from students who have a full-year lease but leave for the summer,” Groll says. “That could be yet another way to save.” 

Contact: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu  

Sources: John Gipson, 765-494-5296, gipsonj@purdue.edu

Eckhard Groll, 765-496-2201, groll@purdue.edu

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