By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer
Last year, Baylor started offering summer classes at a discounted rate with the “Summer of Discovery” program, and the university plans to bring the program back this coming summer.
Set mostly online, this program offers classes to current Baylor students, incoming freshmen and rising high school seniors. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut down campus in March 2020, the university immediately started creating plans for the summer, Jessica King Gereghty, assistant vice president of undergraduate admissions and enrollment, said.
“In that planning, we went ahead and took a few new risks and tried to meet the needs of students in a very unknown summer scenario,” Gereghty said.
Gereghty said it was a “wild ride” quickly turning from the altered atmosphere of the spring semester to organizing a summer schedule. Three major decisions guided the summer layout: online classes, discounts to students and involving professors and advisors in the inner workings of the process. Because the planning required so much collaboration and dedication, Gereghty said it was energizing seeing more students register for the summer classes.
“The entire university did a tremendous job in working together, and we saw a huge growth in students that did enroll in classes,” Gereghty said. “We saw over 2,700 additional students register for classes last summer, and that was encouraging, and yet a lot of work to get ready for everyone in time.”
Claremore, Okla., senior Brittney DeCoux wasn’t originally planning on taking summer classes, but with the altered summer program she was able to travel and accomplish her schoolwork at the same time. DeCoux explained that she took classes through the Summer of Discovery program to help her graduate earlier, rather than adding an additional semester. Comparing her online classes to those in previous semesters, DeCoux said the course content was combined and accelerated but still allowed for class discussion.
“For the last two weeks of classes I was staying out on Lake Tahoe, and the RV park we were staying at didn’t have reliable WiFi,” DeCoux said. “It was like, ‘Let’s go drive up to the lodge and sit in the parking lot and do work,’ so that was strange, but it was nice to just sit with family and work on my homework.”
While many students plan to graduate in four years, it has become increasingly challenging to do that at many universities. However, Baylor has worked to keep a retention rate for their undergraduate program above 90%, according to a comparison done in fall 2019. In that same article, it was reported that the six-year graduate rate remained at 78.1% for the university. In advertising to current students, the program’s website explains how this can be an opportunity for students to advance toward their academic goals.
Even with late-stage marketing pushes, Gereghty shared how there was still a large turnout of students registering for summer classes. As this program was open to incoming freshmen and rising high school seniors, Gereghty said many students chose to start their higher education journey early. More than 600 incoming freshmen and 375 rising high school seniors joined the program and were able to take the next step in their education.
While Summer of Discovery hasn’t been officially announced for summer 2021, more information and dates can be found on Baylor’s website. Gereghty explained that a release is planned for the end of February and decisions being discussed now have to do with online or in-person instruction. Following in the steps of last summer, they are still aiming to provide various class options and a robust learning atmosphere.