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Purdue seeing jump in summer school enrollment

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Purdue University's early figures are showing a sizeable jump in enrollment for summer classes.

Summer semester enrollment is running about 11 percent ahead of last year, including a 16 percent jump among undergraduate students, according to Purdue officials.

The boost follows changes to make more summer classes available to students and a "Think Summer" marketing campaign, the Journal & Courier reported.

"The numbers seem to be trending in the right direction," said Frank Dooley, associate vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs. "We're feeling pretty good. Up until about two years ago, we were somewhat ambivalent about summer. We have focused a lot of attention on it."

Purdue has historically struggled to attract students to take summer classes because the most needed courses often weren't being offered, Dooley said. Purdue made a three-year commitment to teach 250 courses over the summer that officials identified as being in high demand.

"The message is the same: If you're an undergraduate and you have a job or internship, you should take it," Dooley said. "If that isn't true for you, then what you need to do is ask yourself, 'How am I using my time?'"

Purdue officials first announced in 2011 a proposal for implementing the year-round trimester, but have said the school must first make better use of the summer term. About 12,600 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at the West Lafayette campus last summer, up slightly from about 12,000 in summer 2012.

Indiana University has also been looking to boost summer semester enrollment to make better year-round use of its facilities, but with mixed success.

IU officials this year decided to stop offering a 25-percent discount on summer tuition at its Bloomington campus, saying it had done little to attract more students. That discount program is continuing at IU's six regional campuses, where some have seen double-digit increases in summer enrollment.

Purdue's effort includes making $1.5 million more in financial aid available for summer school and beginning to offer residence hall contracts that allow students not to have to move for the summer.

Dooley said Purdue administrators have promised departments that the selected courses will continue even if their enrollments are low to start.

"We were very intentional about the courses we chose to support for the summer," Dooley said. "I'd say it's the classic case of the chicken and the egg. The departments would say, 'We can't offer the course because no one will take it,' and students would say, 'I'm not coming to summer school because you're not offering the course.' We thought this is one of the ways to break that deadlock."

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