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Record number of ASU students take summer classes this year

Students say they can focus on fewer classes, earn degrees faster


Tops of palm trees against a blue sky and sun.
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July 20, 2023

More Arizona State University students than ever are adding classwork to their summer days this year.

Enrollment in summer term classes is way up for 2023 — more than 67,000 students, an increase of 5.6% from last year and 13% from three years ago.

Among campus-immersion students, the largest summertime increases are at the Polytechnic and Tempe campuses, up 8.8% and 8.3% respectively.

For ASU Online, there are 7.6% more summer students this year compared with last year.

Students say that it’s important to get to their degree finish line faster.

Bethany Swalberg is taking two classes this summer at the Tempe campus: a music psychology course and a music history and literature class.

“I am double majoring in music learning and teaching, and vocal performance and pedagogy as a graduate student,” she said.

“Because I am doing a double major and there are a lot of classes to take, I wanted to get it done quicker.”

Swalberg said she’s found that summer classes are less stressful.

“Music classes are usually one or two credits, so you’re taking a whole bunch of classes. So in the summer, it’s nice to just focus on one or two classes and not eight other things you have to juggle,” she said.

Kirin Oblena-Garcia, who is going into his final year as a film and media production major, took a film class at the Media and Immersive eXperience Center in Mesa this summer so he could get ahead in his classes.

“It’s good because there’s not too much pressure when you only take one class in the summer,” he said.

The increase in student enrollment in summer sessions highlights the dedication that ASU students have in pursuing their goals, according to Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost.

"The rise in summer session enrollment serves as evidence that providing a year-round academic experience makes ASU accessible to students who balance their academic pursuits with other life commitments, as well as those looking to accelerate their academic journey," she said.

"It is inspiring to see their dedication. I am grateful to the faculty members whose summer teaching ensures that ASU remains a thriving academic community throughout the year."

The increase in summer classes for ASU Online students is intentional, according to Nancy Cervasio, deputy chief operating officer for Student Coaching Services at EdPlus, the unit that houses ASU Online.

“When we first started success coaching, one of the things we wanted to do is reinforce continuous enrollment with students, using their graduation date to keep them focused and motivated,” she said.

In the early years of online degree programs at ASU, most students took summers off, like on-campus students did.

“A lot of students didn’t know it was an option to continue through the summer six or seven years ago,” she said.

“But after many years of talking to students about graduation goals, we’ve been able to change a lot of behaviors so students don’t take summers off like they used to.”

Success coaches pitch summer as a time for students to take a difficult class, so they can focus just on that class, Cervasio said. And online students can continue their coursework if they travel.

“The most important thing to online students is their time. They want to complete their degree as quickly as possible,” she said.

Audrey Reed of Raleigh, North Carolina, is taking two online classes this summer because she is in an accelerated master’s degree program.

“In this program, there is no choice on classes — it’s ‘here’s your schedule' — and I chose the accelerated,” said Reed, who is studying sociology.

Reed said that taking two six-week classes — her capstone and a class in social change — while working full time at at a nonprofit is demanding.

“But I’m loving the courses,” she said.

Bobbi Lynn Frederick decided to take last summer off from her doctoral program, so she’s making it up by taking two classes this summer. 

Frederick, who is in the educational leadership and innovation program at ASU, is from the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in Fort Thompson, South Dakota, and works as an adjunct art instructor at Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt, North Dakota.

“I knew I had two summer courses coming up, so I chose not to teach this summer,” said Frederick, who wants to work with Indigenous students in higher education.

“I wanted to accomplish this goal I chose.”

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