Analyzing trimesters: Session requires breaks

Implementing a mandatory summer will enable GW students to intern, travel or work during the fall and spring semesters when competition for opportunities is lower. But students may not be able to decide which term they take off, administrators said.

Under a calendar change being considered, rising juniors would be mandated to study on campus for a 10-week term, then take off during one of the subsequent fall or spring semesters. Administrators said the displaced “summer vacation” could provide opportunities for students that are otherwise less accessible.

“You need to have options for them during that (time). Maybe GW ought to grow its study abroad programs,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said. “Or it ought to make some kind of a compact with (other universities), and students ought to be able to go to Palo Alto for a semester, a different variation on the theme.”

According to an initial report studying the pros and cons of a mandatory summer, students would choose which term to spend off campus. But Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the University would have to ensure that not all students take off during the same term.

“There would have to be some sort of University intervention,” Lehman said.

Implementing a summer session would achieve the University’s goals of fully utilizing classroom and dormitory space and would generate extra revenue that could be used to improve academics at GW. Money can go toward building new facilities and funding courses, for example.

But a summer session would also require additional expenses, including hiring more faculty. Lehman said the University has increased enrollment since 1997 without increasing class size because more professors have been hired.

In 1997, lower-division introductory courses averaged 33.1 students per class, with 560 full time faculty members. In fall 2002, there were 32.3 students per class and 656 professors.

Adding a mandatory summer session would allow the University to enroll 1,000 more students over a four-year period. Tuition would generate the extra revenue. Between 30 and 50 full-time faculty members would need to be hired, according to the report.

Lehman said current summer programs, which usually consist of two six-week sessions, would continue for all students on a voluntary basis.

“We don’t want to lose revenue from summer school,” Lehman said.

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