A photo of a student reading in the shade under a treeStudents have opportunities to take Summer Session classes at reduced cost this year. (Sacramento State)

For Sacramento State students aiming at a timely graduation, Summer Session is a valuable tool, and this year the University is doing more than ever to ensure that summer classes are affordable and accessible.

Sac State has taken several steps to reduce the cost of summer tuition and will also closely watch registration so that additional sections of high-demand classes can potentially be added. The push is part of the University’s efforts, launched in 2016 as part of the California State University’s Graduation Initiative, to increase four-year graduation rates.

“Summer Session is an untapped resource for our students, in that it allows them to enroll in courses they may not have been able to get during the fall or spring semester or may not have fit into their schedule,” said Jim Dragna, executive director of University Initiatives and Student Success. “Summer offers a way to not only make up courses but also to get ahead and use that time in an efficient way.”

Students were able to begin registering for Summer Session, which is administered through the College of Continuing Education, on April 18. Students admitted for Fall 2018 as well as community members can also take summer classes, and can register beginning May 7.

The centerpieces of Sacramento State’s graduation efforts are the “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two” programs, through which first-year and transfer students, respectively, pledge to take 30 units per year, significantly increasing the likelihood they can graduate on time. In exchange for their commitment, the University provides benefits and incentives designed to help them stay on track, such as additional advising and as vouchers and discounts for campus programs and services.

“The bottom line is we want our students to be successful, and one of the ways we establish success is by defining it as graduating from the University,” Dragna said. “We know that there are many barriers that make timely graduation difficult, and by making more classes available during the summer and reducing the financial burden, we’re working to reduce those barriers and be in partnership with students as they travel this journey to graduation and beyond.”

For the second year, Finish in Four and Through in Two Students will be eligible for the Provost’s Summer Graduation Initiative Grant, which will defray the cost of summer tuition as well as an earlier registration date of April 17. “Finish line students,” or students who are within 30 units of graduation, will also be eligible for the grant and for early registration.

The grants, for which the amount will vary depending on a student’s grade level, are funded through the California State University’s Graduation Initiative, and last year helped nearly 400 students complete summer courses last year, said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ching-Hua Wang. That success is something they hope to replicate and build upon by offering the grants again for this summer.

“Under the leadership of President Nelsen, our faculty and staff have laser-focused our collective efforts on student success,” she said. “One of the effective ways to facilitate our students’ goal of timely graduation is to help them take needed courses during the summer time.”

In addition, the University has reduced summer fees by $79, and for the first time at Sacramento State students can apply for Summer Pell Grants. Students interested in Summer Pell must fill out a summer aid application as well as have a FAFSA application on file. Summer Pell will not impact the amount of Pell Grant money a student may receive for the fall or spring semesters.

Sac State’s summer push is already paying dividends: Summer Session enrollment was up nearly 10 percent in 2017 versus 2016, and of 2017’s 378 summer graduates, more than 75 percent used summer classes to get over the finish line. The University’s overall graduation efforts have also shown remarkable success. From 2016 to 2017, the University saw a 3-point increase in the four-year graduation rate and a five-point increase in the two-year transfer rate.

For more information about Summer Session, including registration, visit https://www.cce.csus.edu/summer. A schedule of courses is available at http://www2.csus.edu/class_schedule/Summer2018/. – Jonathan Morales