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More than 12,000 Students Register for Summer Classes

Since 1900, Summer Sessions Has Grown to Include Hundreds of Courses and Thousands of Students

by Julia Sommer, Public Affairs
posted July 15, 1998

While summer often means long days at the beach, hikes through the Sierra, or family trips to Disneyland, it means classes, term papers, and tests for more than 12,000 Summer Sessions students.

Established in 1900 with 37 courses and 433 students, Summer Sessions offers more than 500 courses this year, from English, math, and history to "Changing Media in American Society," "Global Environmental Change," and "Off-Beat, Eccentric, and Offensive Comedy: From Aristophanes to Chris Rock."

Three-, six-, eight-, and 10-week sessions take place from May 26 to Aug. 14.

For Berkeley career staff, Summer Sessions waives the $310 registration fee. "It's healthy and useful to have staff participate in the classroom experience," says Gary Penders, Summer Sessions director. "It's good for staff to remember why they're here."

In 1995, the American Studies Institute was added to summer's three-week session. From July 27 to Aug. 14, it includes 14 one-unit courses taught by distinguished Berkeley faculty and visitors. (The last day to register for this session is July 31.)

UC Berkeley students make up 68 percent of summer's scholars, reports Penders -- completing required courses and accelerating time-to-degree. English 1B (Reading and Composition) is the most populous course; business is the most popular subject; and engineering has more student demand than supply of courses.

The remaining 32 percent of summer students are visitors -- mainly international and "independent" (adult) students wishing to learn more about the U.S. and to pursue personal interests.

This year Summer Sessions added Israel, Spain, and England to its international programs in South Africa, Italy, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Barbados, and Portugal.

Summer Sessions is self-supporting and generates revenue for the university. Class cost is usually $105 per unit.

"We're unique in the country among summer programs in that we offer substantial financial aid, especially to low-income students," says Penders.

Penders, who became director in 1993, has seen summer enrollment climb from 8,740 to more than 12,000 and financial aid awarded grow from $750,000 to $3.3 million.

Most summer faculty are lecturers and graduate students, many of whom teach the same courses during the year, and there is a sprinkling of tenured faculty, including English professor Ron Loewinsohn (see story on this page).

For more information, visit the Summer Sessions office in Room 23 of Wheeler Hall, call 642-5611, or see the web site at

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