Free winter classes
Winter cold and snow does not stop UMBC students from getting their education. Photo courtesy of UMBC.

Free winter classes

College students all over America are gearing up for winter break. Having a few weeks between semesters to relax and unwind helps many students keep their minds sharp. However, many university students use this time to catch up on classes they could not take during Fall semester. Summer break is similar, allowing two separate sessions for students to take basic classes outside of the four-year plan in their majors.

While this resource is available at UMBC’s main campus, making it accessible to many students who live within a few miles of the Baltimore/Catonsville area, it carries a hefty price tag. For this year’s Winter Session, each credit costs $347 plus fees for a Maryland resident undergrad. For a non-Maryland resident, each credit costs $934, almost three times that for a resident.

Because extra sessions are a necessary asset for students who wish to graduate on time, each student should be offered one or two free Winter or Summer Session classes during their time as an undergraduate student.

The variety of classes during each session is geared toward beginner classes. Reiji Tsukamoto, a senior majoring in biochemistry, took Modern Language and Linguistics 191 and Biology 142 in two separate Summer Sessions. Another biochemistry major, junior student Pablo Dominguez, will be taking Economics 101 this Winter Session.

These classes, and classes like them, are offered because a high percentage of the student body need to take them before they specialize into higher level electives. However, because many students take their beginner classes during the Fall and Spring semesters rather than over the summer, their class needs are different.

“I would definitely like to see electives for specific majors, such as for biochemistry, during the winter,” Tsukamoto said. He took most of his lower level classes during his early years as a student and is now trying to fit multiple 300 and 400 level classes into a single semester. However, he admits, “finding teachers who are willing to sacrifice their winter break time isn’t exactly easy.”

Dominguez had a similar opinion. “[The session should offer] upper-level electives, and definitely upper-level language classes,” he suggested. Dominguez requires some beginner classes for the General Education Program requirements for UMBC but otherwise needs to complete his major with upper-level classes.

When asked if they would be more likely to take a Summer or Winter Session class if the first one was free, both said yes. “Especially in the summer,” Tsukamoto added. Dominguez said he would definitely prefer more online classes in the winter.

The fact that summer and winter break classes are offered at all is invaluable. However, the price of classes is often frustrating and prohibitive. Students would benefit from being able to take 100 and 200 level classes over their first summer or winter at UMBC,  freeing up their schedules later for upper-level courses. The best incentive for taking a lower level class outside of the normal four-year plan would be to offer that class for free.