#SummerAtSuffolk expensive, inconvenient for far away students

A few months ago, ads for Summer at Suffolk began appearing everywhere I went. Messages on Pandora, Facebook, and the MBTA told me that I could save money and enjoy the convenience of city life while still easing next semester’s burden.

While the chance to stay on campus may be enticing for some students, many of us go back home outside the city, usually to summer jobs.

I wound up taking a summer math class not because I wanted to, but because I had dropped it on my first attempt in the spring semester. That professor was a rude, rambling man who gave me more headaches than any other teacher I have had in school. So I started this summer course keen to focus, work hard, and put it behind me in seven weeks.

But Summer at Suffolk is far from ideal for me, too. I work in Waltham from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., then drive to Harvard to get the Red Line for my 5 p.m. math class. Class days are very tiring, which makes focusing, and later, remembering the material, difficult.

On top of this, Suffolk’s summer courses are very expensive compared to offerings at local community colleges. My four credit course cost me $2,600, or $625 per credit. Taking a course at Middlesex Community College, which would be the most convenient place for me to go, costs $176 per credit, or $704 for the whole course. Even with an estimated $100 in additional fees, I would still pay less than a third of what I am paying Suffolk this summer.

Before I registered for this summer class, I asked a clerk at the registrar’s office if I could take the course at a community college closer to home. The answer I got was not a definite “no,” but it was a vague answer that suggested it would be a big hassle to try, and that the chance that I would be able to was very slim. Some online research on the Suffolk website yielded no information on whether I could take a course at a different college, or whether the credits would transfer, or even who I should ask for help in navigating such a process.

(Post from Twitter user @SUStudentAffairs)

I understand why Suffolk would want to keep students from taking courses at other colleges: they provide courses and services access to the library and tutoring during the summer, hoping that students will take advantage of them. Keeping the buildings active and staff paid costs a lot of money, and offering these services can be a financial gamble if many students will not be enrolled in courses or on campus.

So Suffolk’s goal of keeping tuition money flowing in is reasonable and necessary to keep Summer at Suffolk financially feasible. But for students who need cheaper and more convenient options, Suffolk should allow them to take at least some courses at other institutions.

To help students like me, I would like Suffolk to clearly explain how many credits I can take at a different school, and how I can make sure the credits I earn will transfer to Suffolk, if at all. This information does not need the same advertisement that the Summer at Suffolk program receives, but it should be available to students who ask the offices of the registrar or bursar, or their academic advisor, and should be easy to find online.

Though Suffolk has good reasons to want to keep students from spending their money elsewhere, the university must also accommodate far away students who need to take cheaper classes closer to home. I hope administrators agree and work out a system to let us do just that.