Opinion: Summer Courses at AU – are they worth the price?
At $1,768 a credit, AU’s summer classes ostracize students from furthering their education during the summer
When the summer begins for American University students, many wish to continue learning and building their resumes, whether that’s through working a job in their hometown, participating in an internship or taking a summer class. Enrolling in summer courses should be an experience that doesn’t break students’ bank for aiming to further their education. American University does not provide this experience.
According to AU’s Tuition and Fees Information site, a full year of undergraduate tuition is $53,070 before financial aid and scholarships. This is more than $13,000 greater than the average private college’s tuition for the 2022-2023 academic year.
When it comes to summer courses, the high prices are very similar. As opposed to the flat rate of tuition that AU charges students for the academic year semesters, summer courses are instead charged per credit hour. At $1,768 per credit for the summer and T3 terms, the University actually boasts more affordable summer undergraduate tuition than George Washington University at $2,080 per credit hour and Georgetown University at $1,910 per credit. This slight difference, however, is not necessarily a win.
This summer, I decided to take macroeconomics, an economics course that is required for School of Communication majors like myself. When looking at AU’s offerings, I made the startling discovery that if I wanted to take a three credit, six week long, asynchronous course, it would be $5,304. It’s also worth noting that, for summer sessions at the University, students must be enrolled in at least six credits to be applicable for need-based aid, so a $5,000+ bill is fairly normal for the average student who just wants to take one course.
In search of other options, I checked out my local community college’s website, where I found the same course (offered as four credits rather than three) for $128 a credit. Knowing that it would transfer to AU, I immediately signed up for the macroeconomics course through Portland Community College.
That left me with the question: Why are the University’s summer courses so expensive, and are they worth the staggering cost?
The idea many argue is that, as students of American University, we are paying for a more “prestigious” education than those at state schools or community colleges. However, what students are often paying for during the summer are asynchronous courses. According to Eagle Service, for the summer 2023 term, there are 249 courses being offered to undergraduate students. Of those, 90 courses are in-person and on campus at the University, while 62 courses are offered as synchronous online classes with set times that students meet and engage on Zoom every week. That leaves 97 courses as asynchronous classes without set meeting times or times to interact with professors and peers, which is not worth the same amount of money that an on-campus or even a Zoom experience is.
The thing that I love so much about AU is the community that I feel in the classrooms. I’ve created incredible bonds with professors and classmates while sitting in a class, engaging in dialogue and challenging each other on different ideas. Students simply don’t get that from asynchronous courses, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to justify paying so much for them.
One of the most common ideas at AU is that the only way to finish your degree early is by taking summer classes. Thinking that the only way students can finish classes earlier through the University is by paying $5,000+ a class further perpetuates the classist ideals that tend to plague campus already. The people who can get ahead in their education are the people that have the ability to pay thousands of dollars for classes in the summers.
AU’s tuition is already well above the average private school tuition in the country, so expecting students and their families to be willing and able to spend thousands of dollars for extra classes is ridiculous, but on brand for the University.
Furthermore, the University has a handful of stipulations for students like me who choose to study outside of the University to save some money. For instance, according to the University’s website, none of the mandatory Habits of Mind courses may be taken outside of AU. The ‘Natural-Scientific Inquiry,’ for example, includes many different science classes — such as “General Biology I” and “Nature of Earth” — that other universities offer, but according to the University, it has to be completed at AU, or it will not count towards the Habits of Mind.
The University must revamp the tuition for summer courses, which they could do by making asynchronous courses cheaper than in-person courses or even creating a sort of “tier” system where on-campus classes are full credit price, synchronous online classes are three-fourths the price and asynchronous classes are half the price. This would create a more sustainable and equitable environment for students to engage in summer learning. For now, however, community college and local university courses seem to be the way to go. As long as students work closely with their advisors and ensure articulation equivalency in the University database, you can never go wrong with saving a few thousand dollars.
Alana Parker is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.
This article was edited by Jelinda Montes, Alexis Bernstein and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis.