College summer enrollment this year reached an all-time high. Was this increase the result of an economic slump, or because pampered children of baby boomers refuse to work?
Summer school enrollment has been growing since the booming economic times of the late '90s, proving that even in good times, students choose to hit the books rather than wait tables.
Valerie Ross, a college summer school director, has noticed a major change not only in enrollment, but also in the students themselves.
"I see an increasingly serious kind of student," Ross remarks. "I'm a baby boomer, and when I went out on the job market, I was in competition with 600 people for one position. It is as if we are reliving the baby-boom era in terms of competitive drive."
Dean Purdy, executive officer in the sociology department at Bowling Green State University, feels over-privileged teens, harsh economic times and demanding degree requirements all contribute to the popularity of summer classes.
"These kids have all had their own rooms and lived pretty well," said Purdy. "Maybe we are somewhat at fault for giving them this."
"There is a myth that you have to be out in four years, and the only way to do that is four years plus summers," Purdy says. "Also, there aren't a bundle of jobs for these students to find."
A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows job recruitment at colleges is down 36 percent, and that job seekers dramatically outnumber available positions.
At the University of California, Berkeley's summer enrollment is up by 1,000 students. The State University of New York at Fredonia is seeing a 25.4 percent increase in students as well as the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, which boasts a 38 percent boost.
These figures indicate that summer school is a college fad more popular than, say, Dave Matthews Band concerts or reruns of MTV's The Real World.
Illinois' Moraine Valley Community College had a record spring and summer enrollment, which Mark Horstmeyer, director of college and community relations, attributed to a troubled economy.
"We had a lot of students who attend four-year colleges during the school year," Horstmyer says. "As you are discovering, tuition has gone up, while the economy has gone down. They can get a lot of their courses done at our community college for a lesser cost."
"The credits are cheaper," remarked Nick Abel, who is taking courses at Nassau Community College in Long Island during his summer vacation.
With a hectic school year that includes a position on the Stony Brook baseball field, Abel feels that summer is a perfect time for him to take the more technical courses, such as math.
"Besides," he adds, "it's only a hundred dollars a credit."