Summer courses can save future college students money

Posted: Apr. 17, 2018 8:25 am

MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — Hannah Ingram’s approach is representative of what appears to be a growing trend.

A senior at Brown County High School, Ingram has taken a series of courses the past two summers at John Wood Community College. She has knocked off a number of general education and foundational requirements that will be part of her academic major in college, either at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Ingram is one of a growing number of soon-to-be college freshmen kick-starting their college careers, allowing them to save money down the educational road.

She admits the added academic load over a condensed, three-week summer schedule can prove stressful at times.

“But the hard work pays off,” Ingram said.

Both academically and financially.

Tuition for a summer classroom-based course at JWCC is about $480 for an in-district resident. That compares with a $1,125 average at a four-year public university in Illinois or a $2,594 average at a private university, according to figures supplied by JWCC.

“Some students are starting to view the summer just like the fall or spring semesters,” said Andy Happekotte, the director of advising and retention at JWCC.

Ingram, who is eyeing a career as a dental hygienist, said the summer courses add up quickly.

“By the time I graduate high school, I will have about 30 (college) credit hours out of the way,” she said. “I’ll be about done with my freshman year of college.”

The number of students like Ingram taking summer courses at JWCC has almost doubled in the last three years, growing from 63 to 119.

“They see it as an opportunity to save money and complete courses in a shorter amount of time and in ways that make the most sense for their schedules,” Happekotte said.

In Ingram’s case, she started the summer between her sophomore and junior year at Brown County High School. She also took college classes during the regular academic year while in high school.

“Starting early has given me the opportunity to spread out the cost of my general education classes,” Ingram said. “It has allowed me to pay as I go and keep the amount I need to borrow to finish college lower than if I was paying all of my education at once.”

Summer classes typically have fewer students per class than traditional academic terms. Ingram has found that that has offered her more opportunity to interact with professors.

Students are normally limited in the number of classes they can enroll in during the summer. Normally they will focus on one to three subjects, as opposed to five or more during a traditional academic term.

Ingram undertook what she felt would be more difficult science courses at JWCC’s Mount Sterling Education Center during the last two summers. With her plan to become a dental hygienist, she wanted to master core science courses to best prepare herself for the program. She also completed Introduction to Biology, and took Human Anatomy and Physiology I.

“My science classes where regular 16-week courses condensed into an eight-week term, and that made it tough,” Ingram said. “I’m thankful I had great professors and a small class. I had a lot of one-on-one time and opportunities for additional explanations and direction.”

Taking general education courses in the summer can help students enter major-specific courses ahead of schedule and may help them graduate early.

The most popular summer classes taken by high school students at JWCC include speech, statistics, college algebra, rhetoric and composition I and II, biology, music appreciation, psychology and sociology.

Ingram said the summer classroom schedule can be demanding, but in the long run the rewards offset any hardships.

“Don’t give up,” she said.