The spring semester of 2015 ended on June 20. While many college students are excited for their three-month long summer break, around two thousands of Sogangers still decided to take summer courses. For those who are on campus during summer, their concern for their grades and college life continues to go on. A recent revision of course retaking policy expected to encourage more students to retake courses and accordingly increase the demand for the summer and winter sessions. Although complaints from students about summer and winter session have been constantly reported, no noticeable changes were made. To meet the growing interests, appropriate adjustments that offer better quality and conditions are required. The Sogang Herald covered the complaints of the summer and winter session by conducting a poll on students taking summer session this year.
An Issue Rising to the Surface
According to the Office of the Registrar, the number of students taking summer session in 2015 is 2,320. In 2014, 2,421 students took summer session and 2,017 students registered for Winter Session. Nearly 20 percent of all enrolled students register for summer or winter session every year. Then, do summer and winter session, which are equally as important as regular semester, equally offer the satisfying environment to students?
Last year, the Office of the Registrar abruptly changed and notified an academic schedule for winter session, causing many students chaos and difficulties. This incident not only generated complaints, but also left a doubt whether the related officials are idly handling summer and winter session compared to the regular semesters. Moreover, the Student’s General Meeting which was held on March 27, 2015 proposed the requests for reducing the tuition and opening more courses for summer and winter session. However, a provisional Student’s Representative Meeting held on June 9 again pointed out a lack of communication between the school administration and students left most of the requests unsolved, including the proposition regarding summer session. The Student’s General Meeting, where one-ninth of the undergraduate students are in presence, officially dealt with the complaints about summer and winter session. It implies that this issue which many students have complained about finally surfaced. Despite the requests from the students, even an entire semester after these requests were ever made, hardly any appropriate measures were implemented.
How Students Feel
How do students actually feel about current summer courses? Three major complaints about summer and winter session have been largely recognized: the quality and environment of the courses, the lack of courses, and expensive tuition. Based on these problems, the poll conducted on the students who are currently taking summer session help diagnose the real problems and represent the general opinion towards summer and winter courses.
First, the quality of the courses and the class environment during summer session were often pointed out as problems. Since the number of students enrolled in summer session and the number of faculty is small, administrative work during summer break could be done more unsystematically and laxly than during regular semesters. Students are more likely to suffer from laxity of school administrative works during summer and winter, when air-conditioning and heating immensely affect study efficiency and concentration. In addition, although mainly core require courses are opened rather than major courses during summer and winter session, the ratio of temporary lecturers to full-time professors is clearly higher than that of the regular semesters. A drastic change in lectures and compressed curriculum often lead to students’ dissatisfaction. If countermeasures suggested by related administrative offices are insufficient, problems regarding the quality and environment of courses are hard to eradicate. On the other hand, despite the concerns, most students currently taking summer courses appear to be either satisfied or indifferent with the operation of lectures as well as the class conditions, according to the poll conducted by The Sogang Herald. (graph1)
Out of 140 respondents, 65 were satisfied with class environment and 70 were content with the quality of courses.
Overall, more than half of the surveyed were content with the courses they are currently taking. While several students still revealed their personal dissatisfaction with the summer session as too much or lack of air-conditioning, most students felt that overall class conditions and the way of lectures have been improved in a more consistent way. As more people tend to be content with the administrative system, related offices should constantly pay attention to every minor complaint to further pursue the betterment of the enrolled students.
Another problem exhibited is the shortage of courses available in summer or winter session. About a week before summer session begins, it is easy to find some people recruiting other students on online college community sites to meet the minimum number of students to additionally open up classes. Although the Office of the Registrar conducts a demand survey previous to every summer and winter session, students seem to demand more courses to be established. The result of the poll shows that 29% think the demand survey well reflects on course opening, while 35% disagree with the effectiveness of the demand survey.
A probable reason behind the outcome of the poll markedly diverges into two different responses is that a distinct imbalance exists among the courses opened during summer session. For instance, 15 Business major courses, including Internships courses, and 5 Communication major courses were opened, while none of the courses were opened for American Culture and other European Culture majors. It is undeniable that the demand for Business major courses is higher than any other major courses and opening classes regardless of the result of the demand survey is an excess; however, the fact that no single courses were opened for several majors surely causes inconvenience for some students, especially the ones expecting to graduate sooner. Also, when asked of “what is the reason for not registering for summer session?” 56 out of 90 answered that the courses they wanted were not opened.
It is now clear that a myriad of students have complaints about lack of major courses other than Business, and thus, diverse courses should be opened up for those who are impossible to meet the quota to establish a class.
Lastly, an expensive tuition for summer and Winter Session should be adjusted. Currently, the tuition for Sogang University’s summer session in 2015 is 96,000 won per credit. Compared to other private colleges, such as 87,000 won for Hanyang University, 89,000 won for Kyunghee University, and 91,000won for Sungkyunkwan University, Sogang University ranks top in the expensive tuition for summer session in this year. It is also shown that the problem most of the students commonly realize is excessively high tuition fees. According to the poll, nearly 84% responded that summer session tuition is expensive.
An overly priced tuition, on occasion, works as nothing more than a deterrence to withdraw from taking summer and winter session. Unlike other problems, a lot of factors contribute to fixing summer and winter session tuition fee, such as the number of enrolled students for each session, number of professors and temporary lecturers employed, budget appropriation, and et cetera. Although it is complex to drastically lower down the tuition at once, student representatives and Office of Budget Planning should consider discussing unreasonably high tuition for current summer and winter session at Sogang.
As earlier this year the Student’s General Meeting indicated the problems of summer and winter session, some efforts have been made by both the Education Department of the General Undergraduate Student Council and the Office of the Registrar to mitigate the complaints.
To begin with, in order to improve the quality of courses and class environment, investigation on students’ opinion should be carried out at first hand and more often, so that the Administration Department could adequately handle the volatile situations and opinions detected in different summer and winter session. For that matter, the General Student Council is planning to investigate classrooms on their own and request for specific changes, and the Office of the Registrar tries to immediately contact the related offices as soon as it receives complaints. In addition, the Office of the Registrar stated that “most departments recommend their students to take major courses during regular spring and fall semester, rather than taking 3 to 4 weeks long courses during summer and winter.” Even with the best effort to improve the quality of the lectures, some limits of the short and compressed curriculum of summer and winter session cannot be fixed. So, prior to their registration for courses, students as well should be aware of this inevitable limit of the quality of courses at summer and winter session.
Also, according to the minutes of the Tuition Deliberative Committee Meetings that were held on January 16 and 27, 2015, issues about high tuition of summer and winter session were covered as one of the significant subjects. Both Kim Min-kun, the president of the General Undergraduate Student Council, as well as Jung Hyun-sik, the chairman of the Tuition Deliberative Committee, agreed that recent revision of course retaking policy will possibly increase the demand for summer and winter courses. Thus, tuition was reduced by 1 percent. The director of the Education Department at Student Council, Yoo Han-bin (13 Political Science), expressed a hopeful view on lowering the tuition due to the slight reduction in tuition fee that had been approved recently. He also stated “President Yoo Ki-pung once delivered that summer and winter session tuition can be reduced more rapidly.” Therefore, the Student Council hopes that this debate could eventually reach a satisfying agreement through consultation.
Furthermore, as the General Undergraduate Student Council acknowledges the relationship between increase in the number of courses and the budgetary issues, it actively tries to engage and cooperate with the Offices of Academic Administration and Budget Planning. Although budget-related issues are sensitive to discuss and even harder to reach consent, the bright side is that the Office of Registrar is cooperative in offering better conditions for students, and meeting with the President is scheduled in the beginning of the second semester. On the other hand, the Office of Registrar pointed out that only 8% of currently enrolled students participated in demand survey for courses this summer. The Office of Registrar asserted that if the demand and number of students registered for summer session increases, more courses can surely be opened even for those who major in Humanities and International Cultures.
In addition, the opinions and requests of the students should be adequately investigated and conveyed. While a lot of students complain about lack of courses, only 8 % responded to the demand survey that affect which courses to be offered. To increase the effectiveness of the survey, the Office of the Registrar could apply different methods of survey conducting and change the time when the poll is conducted. Most importantly, smooth and frequent communication between students and college is the key to assuage current negative student’s opinion toward summer and winter session.
Yoo Han-bin asserted “summer and winter sessions are sort of a microcosm of the regular semesters. Improving the situations of summer session is highly important, because it can lead into the way of solving problems happened in the regular semesters.” Owing to a reduced size of the classes, summer and winter session had long been set aside from attention, but the problems occurred at summer and winter, such as high tuition fees and lack of courses for certain majors, are not different from those occurred at spring and fall. These issues that have surfaced recently enabled active discussion and cooperation between the General Student Council and the Office of the Registrar. Although tangible results have not been turned out yet, continuing discussion on this issue could be a great starting point. Resolving the problems pointed out about summer session would satisfy those who put their hearts into studying even during summer break, and at the same time give insight on the wise solution of the problems of regular semesters.