2015 May Term report shows unclear future

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By Tia Patsavas

 

At the Student Senate meeting on Sunday, Feb. 22, students discussed May Term’s changes and future developments at Illinois Wesleyan Univeristy.

Associate Dean of Curricular and Faculty Development Lynda Duke presented the May Term Report. The thorough 43-page report included May Term trends, results from the faculty survey and student survey and financial data.

“Originally, it was envisioned that 30 percent of students would take a May Term course,” Duke said.

But May Term enrollment exceeded the goals established since its inception 19 years ago. In 2009, the number of students who enrolled in May Term peaked at 67 percent.

There was a significant decline in May Term enrollment in 2011 when the $500 fee was applied to students who enrolled in an on-campus class, and again in 2012, when IWU loans were no longer available to students who desired to take a May Term travel course.

“The May Term fee was implemented to help cover some of the actual costs of May Term,” Duke said.

May Term 2014 saw a record low of 40 percent enrollment, and Duke added that this statistic would continue to decline in the coming year. The amount of on-campus courses offered has changed throughout the years—in 2009, a high of 71 on-campus courses were offered, and in 2014, the statistic hit a low of 36.

In light of the decrease in May Term courses being offered, one student raised concerns about the number of students who could enroll in each class.

“There’s really no way to track what students want unless you are on a wait list,” said Assistant Professor of Chemistry Melinda Baur, who serves on the May Term Advisory Committee.

Students can put their names on the wait list for multiple classes, and Duke and Baur urged that students sign up so that faculty and staff gain insight into student’s needs for classes.

Other trends Duke reported on included a consistent decrease in the number of May Term travel courses offered, and a decrease in the number of travel courses completed due to cancelled courses caused by a lack in student enrollment.

“Sixty-three percent have not [enrolled in May Term travel course] because of the expense, and we had one course last year that was $7,500 for a May Term,” Duke said.

With the current process, students register for May Term courses in November, and courses typically cost between $4,000-$6,000.

Duke also stated reasons why students enroll in a May Term course. “Not surprisingly, 78 percent did so to fulfill a general education requirement, and this is consistent with the 1993 student survey,” said Duke.

According to the most recent survey, 48 percent of students chose a class because the course content was of interest to them. 43 percent fulfilled a major or minor requirement and 18 percent enrolled in a course for the opportunity to travel.

The financial data in the report revealed that May Term ran at a deficit of roughly $65,033 in 2014.

Karla Carney-Hall, vice president of student affairs and dean of students, shed light on the figure. She named that the primary sources of revenue for the University are tuition and fees, endowment, alumni contributions, and auxiliary enterprises.

“There are only four sources of revenue, so if one program, any program—Student Senate, May term, athletics—runs a deficit, then the other things are picking it up,” Carney-Hall said.

Lastly, Duke discussed possible questions and considerations for the future, including whether a loss of experimental and experiential courses over time is problematic.

“May Term was really intended to be a time where that was a huge focus, so the question of ‘are we getting away from that too much’ is a concern,” Duke said.

For the May Term Advisory Committee, the next step is to receive feedback from students and discover, “What do students value and what do we value, and what can we realistically do so that it meets those values and those expectations,” Duke said.

“Clearly, May Term isn’t what we thought it was going to be 20 years ago,” Duke said. “The question is now ‘what do we want it to be?’”