Summer vacation can be great. It offers time to catch up with old friends, take a break from classes and make some extra money. However, there comes a time to examine whether we really need summer break or if that time could be put to better use. The University of Minnesota is testing out the idea of year-round classes. Two of the university’s programs will be made year-round next fall, as part of a trial to see if this will work for all their programs.
The U of M did a survey of their students to gauge their feelings on the matter of year-round schooling. It turned out that 50 percent of the students support this idea. I read up on it. I found that I support it and think it could work at the University of Wisconsin.
An important benefit of year-round classes is that they make it possible to graduate in three years without overloading on credits. Graduating sooner rather than later would really help students out, especially those who are in five-year programs and want to speed things up. This was the most important factor for the students that supported the year-round classes on the U of M’s survey. With the job market in the state that it’s in, most students want to get into it before it gets worse.
Year-round classes would also give students more choices as they decide when to study abroad and in which classes they want to enroll. Many classes are only offered during the fall or spring semesters. This is an unfortunate situation that causes some students to miss out and fall behind in their majors. A summer term could offer another chance to take those classes.
Some students are concerned with the fact that summer break represents an opportunity to participate in internships or work in jobs related to the field they are pursuing. However, with the year-round option, one could do a co-op or internship during one semester and still be on track to graduate early.
Jobs are becoming ever more difficult to find during the summer due to the fact that all students get the summer off. This problem is heightened by the fact that a lot of students return to their hometowns during the summer – towns that usually do not have as many opportunities as a college town. With year-round schooling, those internships could be done during the year, with missed credits being made up during the summer term.
During the summer, my brain basically gets turned off, and I forget much of what I learned the previous year, especially in my science and math classes. If there were no break, teachers wouldn’t have to spend so much time reviewing. Students could go from an introductory class to the next level immediately, without a long break in between. We would stay in the mindset of learning much more easily.
Living situations are also something to consider. I’ve found it to be quite a hassle to find people to sublet my apartment during the summer. You often lose money in the process, and it is difficult to find nine-month leases. If students didn’t go home for the summer, this wouldn’t be a problem.
The U of M is currently considering making the year-round idea optional. Students who want to attend classes year-round will take the three year track, but students who want to retain their summer break will be able to take the traditional four year track. I think this would be a great strategy for UW if the university ever wanted to ease in year-round programs. I would like to see a couple programs that typically take longer to finish, such as engineering programs, become year-round at UW. Engineering students typically opt for co-ops or internships, so year-round programs would be especially beneficial for them.
It will be interesting to see how year-round programs go over at the U of M – if things work out, the whole university could conceivably switch to a year-round schedule. I hope UW keeps an eye on how all of this plays out because it could have a great impact on students of all disciplines.
Julia Wagner ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in English literature.