Summer courses can curb education costs

Published 6:41 am Friday, May 11, 2012

By Terry Leas

Riverland President

One way to reduce the cost of a college education is to take courses before tuition increases in the fall. During summer, Riverland Community College offers credit classes geared toward students who want to complete a full semester of coursework in a shorter term.

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Riverland offers two summer sessions, one June 4 to July 9, and another July 10 to Aug. 13, allowing students to take college courses while still having several weeks to work a summer job, enjoy family vacations or the benefits of a Midwest summer.

The summer schedule moves quickly. In most cases, instructors cover a semester’s material in about 25 days so despite what may feel like a more casual atmosphere, students must take a disciplined approach to succeed. The shorter course duration also means longer class sessions. Depending on the subject and number of credits taken, students may be required to attend a class every weekday for several hours as opposed to the usual two or three times a week for an hour or two during a regular semester.

Summer offers a great way for new students to get familiar with Riverland before starting a more traditional schedule in the fall. Many colleges and universities encourage new students to enroll in summer classes, so they can more easily acclimate to college-level courses. This option may appeal to graduating high school seniors who want to get a jumpstart on their general studies whether as a Riverland student or as a freshman at one of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ (MnSCU) other colleges or universities.

Because of the work that the MnSCU system has done on credit transfer, summer at Riverland also provides a terrific opportunity for students attending other MnSCU colleges to continue their general education credits while spending their summer at home in Albert Lea, Austin and Owatonna or nearby communities.

Moreover, Riverland’s smaller class sizes allow students to receive more personalized attention from their instructors, offering an outstanding opportunity for students to tackle a subject they may have been avoiding until later in their college experience. For example, if students fear math, English or speech, concentrating on that subject during the summer can provide them the confidence they need moving forward with their education.

Often “summer school” offers a way for students to take classes and labs that are commonly full during the more-crowded fall and spring semesters. This situation can delay a student’s educational goals, lead to additional unplanned semesters and costs. Working while attending college can also delay students from taking full course loads during the year, and summer courses offer them the freedom to work, attend college and shorten the duration of time to obtain their desired degrees.

For these reasons and more, Riverland has expanded its course offerings this summer to accommodate more learners. Among offering general studies classes in the traditional classroom setting, there are many opportunities to complete courses online.

For more information about how Riverland’s summer schedule can facilitate your learning goals, visit