Ohio State students can expect to once again have the option of taking up to three credit hours of class in May 2014 without paying tuition, but the future of OSU’s May Session remains uncertain for 2015 and beyond.
Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz told The Lantern Oct. 8 the structure of OSU’s four-week May Session, which began in 2013 as part of OSU’s conversion to semesters, would remain the same for the 2014 Summer Term.
“As was the case this past spring, no tuition will be charged for up to three credit hours taken during the May Session,” Steinmetz wrote in a memo sent to students, faculty and staff Oct. 10. “The Office of Academic Affairs will assess the relative success of the May session at the conclusion of the 2014 session.”
Steinmetz told The Lantern he did not believe OSU learned enough from just one year of the May Session to draw conclusions about the future of the term’s structure and availability.
“We don’t have enough data from one year’s run to tell us what that semester is going to actually look like,” Steinmetz said. “We’ll continue to evaluate it and look at it.”
Combined with the seven-week Summer Session, May Session is one of two parts of OSU’s Summer Term. Under the term’s existing structure, students enrolled in classes during Spring 2014 who do not graduate at the end of the semester are eligible to take a three-credit class with no additional tuition payment. Students enrolled in May Session are still required to pay Summer Term fees, including fees for student activities and Central Ohio Transit Authority bus services.
J. Richard Dietrich, the chair of the University Senate Fiscal Committee and a professor at the Fisher College of Business, said OSU could have collected an estimated $6 million in tuition, not including scholarships or additional financial aid, had a regular rate been charged in May 2013.
Dietrich said that estimate is comparable to a 1 percent increase in undergraduate tuition. As a result, collecting tuition for May Session classes could offset a future tuition increase.
“Let’s suppose next year, we want to raise $6 million more in revenue. One way to do that is a 1 percent tuition increase, another way to do that is to push on tuition charges for May,” Dietrich said. “Either one gets the same result, at least with first approximation, and so, we may say, ‘Look, we can increase tuition by 1 percent next year instead of two if we charge May tuition.’”
OSU spokeswoman Amy Murray said in an email there were nearly 9,400 total students enrolled in May Session 2013, including more than 9,100 students on the Columbus campus. Murray said 90 percent of those students finished their courses to completion.
Another concern the fiscal committee has with May Session being free, Dietrich said, is that some feel it creates a sort of inequality between students who take a May class and those who do not.
“To some extent, you can view (the May Session classes) as having been subsidized by the students who didn’t take class during the May, because they paid the same tuition (during Spring Semester), they got one fewer class,” Dietrich said. “That’s an issue that I think we’re going to have to address again going forward in senate fiscal.”
Aside from the financial concerns surrounding May Session, another issue for students could be the limited amount of class options available during the four-week period.
Although there were more than 200 total classes offered during May Session, the courses available were “totally useless” to some students like Kyle Bergman, a third-year in science and mathematics education.
“For the math majors, it doesn’t help, because you can’t condense a math class in four weeks,” Bergman said. “If there was something like a longer, cheaper Summer Term instead of a free Maymester, I’d rather have that.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp said more classes should be offered during May Session if the term continues to be in place beyond 2014, whether the three credit hours are offered tuition-free or not.
“(A lack of available classes) was one of the hindrances with the plan,” Stepp said.
Stepp said OSU needs to take a “hard look” at the future of the May Session, but he felt another year was needed before that evaluation.
“Whether that means we keep it or not, it just needs to be evaluated,” Stepp said. “I’m not saying the May Session currently does or doesn’t (work), I’m just saying we don’t know yet. But whatever we do, we’re going to make sure that it works for students in the best capacity possible.”
Dietrich said the structure of the May Session was not necessarily installed as a long-term plan, but as a service to help students transition during the semester conversion.
“One of the reasons for having that May … special rate for one class was to try to provide fairness for the students who are going through semester conversion. And a lot of those students are still on campus,” Dietrich said. “You start thinking about when would it make sense to make a change, purely from a tuition standpoint and sort of a fairness for those who were, went through the semester conversion.”
Cynthia Burack, a professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies who taught a class during the 2013 May Session, said the abbreviated term classes are a “positive experience” for instructors and students but added she thinks it is unlikely the current system will continue to be in place for much longer.
“From the educational perspective, it is a positive possibility to continue to have, but I don’t know whether the university will continue to sponsor that,” Burack said. “My understanding had been last spring that the May Session was only a kind of session that was being put in place to assist with the transition from quarters to semesters and that it probably wouldn’t last for very long.”
While there are multiple reasons May Session could be changed or eliminated in the future, Dietrich said keeping its current structure intact for 2015 and beyond is an option.
“I don’t know that there will be a change, but I think there will be a review where we have more information than we had right now,” Dietrich said.
Dietrich said the fiscal committee wants “wide input” from students.
“(Students) are the ones that are most affected by it,” Dietrich said.
While some students may not be pleased with the May Session because of financial inequity or a lack of available classes, others believe it should remain part of OSU’s semester schedule.
Katie Anderson, a third-year in accounting who transferred to OSU this fall, said she hopes to take advantage of May Session as long as it remains available at no additional cost.
“It’s difficult because it’s in such a short span, but it’s good because it’s free and then you get another class,” Anderson said.
The 2014 May Session will be held from May 5 to 30, Murray said.