The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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The long and winding road to Summer YRO

Sari Small has worked at CSUN for 40 years. In a little office tucked away in the Matador Bookstore Complex, she is asked to reflect on how CSUN’s move toward Year Round Operations has affected her job.

“It has made my job horrendous,” she responds.

In fact, it’s made her job different.

Small is the senior program development director at the Tseng College of Extended Learning, but she will change positions and relocate to Admissions and Records July 1 as her college finally relinquishes its control over summer term to the folks in the Student Services Building.

But Small’s relocation is not the only change associated with CSUN’s transition to summer term YRO — a transition that, when completed in Summer 2006, will have taken five years from start to finish.

A year from now, students will no longer register for summer classes through Extended Learning. The way students receive financial aid in the summer will change dramatically, but in a way that seems to make cents for students — literally. The amount of money a student pays to Associated Students, the University Student Union, and the Student Health Center has already gone up.

Turning summer into CSUN’s third full academic term — and not just a self-supported university side-project –has been a long and winding road, paved with millions of dollars in arbitration decisions, fluctuating summer enrollment figures, confused professors looking for information, a seemingly positive financial aid picture for students, and administrators, faculty, and staff members trying to put their fingers on how exactly YRO will affect students.

The logistics are just that: logistical. And as one university official put it, determining whether the switch to YRO is a more functional solution simply depends on who you ask.

But how will YRO affect students? Additionally, an effort this comprehensive begs another, more important question: Besides eased parking, how will YRO benefit students?

‘It Really Depends On Who You Ask’

“Whether (the switch to YRO) is a more functional solution really depends on who you ask,” said CSUN Provost Harold Hellenbrand. “(This summer), we’ll find out from the students whether they find it useful. They’re going to vote with their feet.”

This summer, student enrollment is down 24 percent for the first two sessions of summer term as compared to 2004. According to Extended Learning, the amount of units being taken for credit this summer is down 19 percent from 2004. Additionally, last summer’s enrollment was down by 7 percent following a 2003 enrollment peak of 10,212.

A preliminary report from Extended Learning shows enrollment in the College of Social and Behavior Sciences dropping 48 percent from 2004, even though the total amount of units being taken in that college has increased by almost three percent.

As of June 13, 64 classes had been cancelled, out of roughly 400 total summer classes, according to Small.

“My own personal opinion is that YRO is a dumb idea,” said Michael Reagan, former president of the CSUN chapter of the California Faculty Association. “It’s not like the ‘Field of Dreams.’ If they build it, they won’t come.”

Reagan cited the fee structure currently being used by CSUN as a disincentive for regularly enrolled students (matriculated) who might look to enroll in summer classes.

For example, the current model charges students enrolled in up to six units $678 in tuition. Students who take six or more units are charged $1,167. These figures are comparable to the fee structure used in fall and spring.

In short, students who take one class pay the same amount ($678) as students who take two.

CSUN did not implement an optional “per unit” summer term state university fee, which was an option made available through an executive order from the CSU chancellor.

CSU Fullerton, San Diego State and Humboldt State were among CSU campuses that experimented with the optional per unit policy beginning in Summer 2001.

Each CSU campus was allowed to decide on its own whether to implement this policy, which allows matriculated students to pay by the unit like non-matriculated students, instead of in six-unit increments, according to Glenn Ducat, director of Business Planning and Information Management for the CSU.

“Obviously, the campus would be collecting less money,” Ducat said.

New Fees for

Summer 2005

In December 2004, the Fee Advisory Committee recommended to President Jolene Koester that the university increase A.S., U.S.U., and Student Health Center fees for summer students.

The recommendation was approved, and went into effect for Summer 2005.

In previous summers, these fees were minimal: Students paid around $20 for all of these programs and services.

The new fee policy mandates that summer students pay 60 percent of whatever the A.S. U.S.U. or Student Health Center fee was the semesters before.

For Summer 2005, students will be paying a one-time fee of $41 to A.S., $18 to the Student Health Center, and $64 to the U.S.U.

Terry Piper, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the amount summer students paid prior to this year was insufficient, and that fall and spring semester students ended up filling in funding gaps.

“As a result, the academic year-students actually funded summer operations because summer students were not paying an equivalent share of the cost (of services),” Piper said.

Thinking Like A Year Round School

One of the main reasons cited for the implementation of YRO, according to the CSU, was to “assist students in shortening their time-to-degree by offering a broad range of courses in summer with a particular emphasis on courses that are in high demand during the academic year.”

In other words, YRO is supposed to help students graduate faster.

Hellenbrand said that although the CSU argued that YRO would mean better availability of classes for students, CSUN still does not know what type of results the final conversion to YRO will produce.

“(We’re) still waiting to see how this theory pans out in the long-term,” he said.

Cheryl Connole, manager of academic resources for the College of Health and Human Development, stated the importance of colleges managing their own enrollments and responding to their own students’ needs.

“I look at it as, ‘that’s our job,'” Connole said of managing enrollment.

Connole said summer term would never be that big at CSUN, and that the entire student body is never going get on board with summer classes.

She added that the more important issue to address involves those students who do want to utilize summer term, and what their individual needs are.

“One model is not going to fit (all students),” she said.

“Purely from the institutional side of the matter, (summer) works better from a budget standpoint when the summer is run through Extended Learning,” Hellenbrand said. “The institution can achieve a greater margin of profits to funnel back into the colleges.”

‘Up in the Air’

The logistical work behind full YRO implementation is complex, but many university officials said they had adequate time to prepare, because “everyone saw it coming,” as one administrator put it, and everyone was notified.

Still, minutes from several Provost Council meetings during Spring 2005 — attended by university administrators, deans, and Academic Affairs personnel — described CSUN’s YRO transition as “still up in the air” as late as March 2005, and some areas of the university described record-keeping problems and a lack of information made available for dissemination.

A $6 Million

Arbitration Decision

One of the most significant effects of the transition to YRO involves an arbitration decision made in September 2003 that said CSUN faculty were not paid according to the correct model of salary determination in Summer 2001, 2002 and 2003, the first three years of YRO tran

The California Faculty Association also claimed professors were shortchanged in terms of “indirect instructional activity” completed during that time.

In the arbitration agreement, the CSU agreed to compensate professors for lost pay during those summer terms. The decision will spread more than $6 million to thousands of CSU professors.

A supplemental decision in March 2004 declared that “modified YRO campuses” like CSUN would also be responsible for paying back professors.

CSUN is a modified YRO campus in that it receives “buy-down” funds from the CSU to keep student fees consistent throughout the system. Full YRO campuses receive complete state-support funding, whereas campuses like CSUN do not.

Academic Resources and Planning estimates the supplemental decision cost CSUN almost $3 million in backpay to some 600 professors.

Because CSUN still considered itself a “buy-down” campus operating a summer term, Associate Vice President for Faculty Affairs Penny Jennings said CSUN did not realize its actual YRO status, and therefore did not pay professors according to the commonly used “1/30 compensation rule.”

“We had to come up with $3 million,” Hellenbrand said. “That meant there was not much money available for classes next year.”

Following the decision, Edward Purcell, CFA director of representation, said in a statement that the ruling is “going to cost (the) CSU a substantial amount of money and administrative time at a period when, arguably, it is least able to accommodate those demands,” but that “it didn’t have to happen this way.”

Records regarding the arbitration-related backpay are still being compiled, and professors have a deadline of June 30 for submitting paperwork, according to Faculty Affairs, with payments scheduled for late September.

Managing The Enrollment

Hellenbrand said CSUN was not notified by the CSU until May whether nearly 500 Full-Time Equivalent Students, or FTES, would be counted as state-supported students or as self-supported students, which is a determination that affects whether CSUN is found to have met its annual FTES targets.

In case the 500 FTES were to count under self-support enrollment instead of state-support enrollment, CSUN decided to keep transfer applications open past the deadline to compensate for the possibility of a missed FTES target, which would have affected the amount of money CSUN received from the CSU.

In the end, CSUN was notified that the 500 FTES in question would count as state-support students, which allowed CSUN to just about meet FTES targets for the year, Hellenbrand said.

“From a student’s perspective, it would have made no difference how things were handled this summer,” Hellenbrand said of the final 500 FTES decision.

Ducat from the CSU cited a fluctuating state budget and system-wide student fee increases as reasons why some CSU schools have had trouble managing their enrollments in recent years. Rising student fees, which are scheduled to increase again next year, change student behavior in terms of students who enroll, choose to stay enrolled, and their course selection, he said.

Small said in terms of record keeping, Extended Learning has encountered two specific problems since the transition to full YRO began in 2001.

During the first few years of YRO transitioning, the college could not easily differentiate between undergraduate and graduate students during registration.

Additionally, Small said Extended Learning had difficulty determining which of its students were matriculated and which were not, partly because of its seclusion from the main Admissions and Records office. Following the launch of Student On-Line Administrative Resources in 2003, Extended Learning was able to distinguish with ease which students were matriculated.

Connole said there were instances where faculty members from Health and Human Development were looking for information about YRO and salaries that she did not have.

“They wanted more and more specifics,” she said. “You can’t give people information that you don’t have.”

Financial Aid

The way students apply for and receive financial aid will also change dramatically following next summer’s final move toward full YRO, and is an area where students could potentially see benefits in the short-term.

Diane Ryan, interim director of Financial Aid and Scholarships at CSUN, said the current system of financial aid for summer term distributes funds left unused during the previous fall and spring semesters to summer students.

“We have been able to fund (summer students) with some rather clumsy mechanisms,” Ryan said.

Summer was a “trailing term,” as its financial aid priority was placed after that of the two other semesters.

In Summer 2006, summer will be the “header term,” meaning the academic year will technically start with the summer YRO term. Ryan said the change makes sense institutionally and from an accounting standpoint.

Beginning in Summer 2006, students will apply for financial aid with summer term specifically in mind.

Ryan said the Summer 2006 YRO term could be affected by the presumed reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which sets in place Federal Pell Grants. Ryan said the reauthorization is likely to include a provision that will extend Pell Grant coverage to the full 12-month academic year, as opposed to the 9-month term, which it currently covers.

Ryan said she is still waiting to find out whether California will distribute additional state university grants for Summer 2006. The CSU mandates that each university making the full transition to YRO be allocated additional state university grants at that time. As CSUN will be full YRO in Summer 2006, Ryan said it is likely the university will receive some supplemental grant allocations.

The Changing Future

“I think there’s the same old administrative bureaucracy whenever you change (something),” Connole said.

She said she thought some individuals were not planning for full YRO, “thinking it would just go away.”

“Some people just have a difficult time grasping the new changes,” Connole said. She herself joked that she is not looking forward to the extra work.

In terms of the future of summer terms, Hellenbrand said there will likely be more developmental courses taught during that time, but he added that many students, particularly first-time freshmen, use the summer before college to make money.

An obvious question to ask after the transition to YRO is completed is, “what’s going to happen to the College of Extended Learning if it’s not doing summer?”

Marcella Tyler, executive director for public relations, marketing and communications for Extended Learning, said things are as busy as ever at Extended Learning, perhaps busier than they’ve ever been. Extended Learning has, in recent years, developed programs such as Distance Learning, Intensive English and Continuing Education, which Tyler said would keep the college’s employees more than busy.

Hellenbrand also said that over the next three or four years, the university will likely consider getting rid of the winter “special session” term, which is taught through Extended Learning.

Hellenbrand said there were several reasons behind this potential move, including an opportunity to give support staff more time off in light of expanded summer YRO, as well as addressing the academic implications of a special session term as short as winter break.

When asked about the possibility of eliminating the winter term special session, Tyler responded, “We hear of it when it happens.”

As administrators, faculty and staff across the university work to finish the transition to full YRO, many note the additional or altered workload they will be facing, and the potential impact the switch could have on the university.

“This is going to be a big workload issue for this campus,” Ryan said.

According to Connole, colleges and departments
have to keep an eye on enrollment trends and adapt to new models and ways of thinking.

“I think that students do what they need to do to graduate,” Connole said. “That’s what students want. You’ve got to respond to that.”

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