Illustration by Lizzy Choi
Illustration by Lizzy Choi

As winter quarter ends, students rush to sign up for spring classes because their ability to enroll in these courses may drastically impact their plans for graduation. In response to the high demand for certain classes, UC Santa Cruz announced plans on Feb. 9 to increase the number of courses offered in the summer by 34 — bringing the offering to a total of 315 campus and online summer classes.

“It’s so stressful as an undergraduate student to feel like you have to compete to even graduate,” said third-year psychology student Christine Smith. “The stress of how expensive it is on top of everything makes it so stressful that people are just like, ‘I don’t care anymore,’ and that’s unfortunate.”

Summer session courses can be more expensive than classes taken during the year.

The price of courses and the lower number of students around during the summer make enrollment less competitive than the rest of the year and result in smaller class sizes. According to an email from director of summer session Dr. Monica Parikh, last summer’s classroom enrollment averaged 26 students.

In the fall, winter and spring, some high-demand classes are “gated,” meaning the opportunity to enroll in the class opens and closes throughout the enrollment period in order to be available to students of both high and low priority levels.

“Coming from someone who didn’t take advantage of opportunities to take AP courses back in high school, it only makes sense to give priority to those who actually need it versus someone who has a particular standing,” third-year computer science major Chloe Jiang said. “I took summer classes to help boost my enrollment time because that really matters when you try to enroll in classes that are in such high demand.”

Parikh noted that in addition to the 293 on-campus courses being offered, 22 online courses will also be available. Up from 15 last year, the online courses allow students who live far from campus and with other commitments to continue pursuing their degrees.

“With the new incoming student body size, UCSC can rely on summer session to ease impaction,” Parikh said in an email. “To support current and new UCSC students, we are inviting all fall admit frosh and all fall admit transfers to come start early in summer session.”

The number of offered summer courses will continue to increase in the coming years as the student population grows. Last year, UCSC saw a 27 percent increase in accepted California high school students from the year before. In November 2015, UC President Janet Napolitano pushed for an increase of 10,000 undergraduates from California by 2018.

The increased number of students enrolling at UCSC causes lengthy waitlists that often leave students attending classes with no space to accommodate them. Interim assistant registrar Linda Koch says the majors most affected by impacted courses are engineering and psychology.

“I went to college 20 years ago and it was the same situation then,” Koch said. She works with students during the academic year who struggle to gain enrollment in impacted classes.

Over the years, Koch has seen a large number of students decide to take classes during the summer or at a community college in order to keep up with their academic plans. “There are certain majors that are just very impacted and very competitive,” Koch said.

The goal for summer term is to offer additional classes in smaller sizes, improve graduation rates and lessen the pressure on fall, winter and spring classes.

“The added classes this summer are definitely going to help manage the overcrowding,” Koch said. “Adjusting the hours of the courses and making use of the space we have on campus is definitely going to help.”

For third-year psychology student Christine Smith, the added classes are not a complete solution. The high prices, stressful enrollment process and class times offered all contribute to the difficulties of being a student in an impacted major, especially when it forces her to take alternative classes that don’t align with her career goals.

“If you can’t say ‘I took these classes, this is the knowledge I got from this degree,’ how is that going to help you?” Smith said. “Even though you still have the piece of paper that says ‘I have a psych degree,’ it’s not going to help.