In two short years, UNC Pembroke's summer school enrollment has seen a dramatic 38 percent increase, but school officials aren't ready to stop there.
"We're making progress," said Chancellor Allen Meadors. "We should see literally hundreds of incoming freshmen taking classes in the summer months and not necessarily just those coming to UNCP."
Not only has summer enrollment soared (2,590 in both sessions), but the diversity of the student body has taken an exciting turn.
Justin Puleo is an environmental science and public policy major from Harvard University. He is currently taking both sessions of organic chemistry and general chemistry at UNCP's summer school.
"It's convenient having UNCP in my backyard," Puleo said. "I believe that the level of teaching is outstanding at Pembroke and that there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to receive just as good of an education, if not better than any other university."
Puleo returns home to Pinehurst every summer and takes classes at UNCP that will transfer to Harvard. He said his sister took summer classes at UNCP, and she had no problem having the credits transfer to Emory University.
"I think the course material is pretty similar, and it's keeping me on my toes," he said. "All that matters is how much work you're willing to put in."
He said a small community atmosphere and the low student-teacher ratio are among the school's commendable attributes.
With a 33 percent leap in general enrollment over the past two years, there has been a natural increase in students attending summer school, said Chancellor Meadors. He also credits the relaxed living environment of the new Courtyard Apartments, more course offerings and increased awareness of the school.
"You have to get folks thinking about the advantages of summer school," he said. "We need to encourage our returning students to attend summer school and to get back on course to graduate in four years if they have gotten behind."
Sophomore Chib Thao is taking biology and religion during the summer to complete a few general education requirements. "I came to get them over with and just to get ahead," she said. "It makesmy course load lighter during the year."
Junior Mary Beth Brayboy has been to UNCP's summer school before, taking physical science, literature, and physical education classes.
"I liked it because it was only for five weeks as opposed to a whole semester," she said. "But it was every day, and it was crammed."
Junior Caleb Taylor came to UNCP from Central Carolina Community College in January. The theatre and business management major is taking both summer sessions and plans to do so throughout his college career.
"I am doing it so I can graduate early, plus I have two majors, and I will be an exchange student in the fall," Taylor said. "It's also cheaper for me to go to summer school than it is for me to work and pay for an apartment," he said.
UNC-Chapel Hill sophomore Joshua McIntyre is taking an Old Testament summer class at UNCP to help finish his minor in religion. There are 20-25 people in his class here, as opposed to an estimated 400 at Chapel Hill.
"Summer school at UNCP works out well for me. I have class in the morning and intern at a law firm in the afternoon," McIntyre said.
The son of U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre, he will pass up the second session to intern with U.S. Sen. John Edwards in Washington D.C.
Dr. William Gash, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and summer school director, said he is pleased with the increasing enrollment.
"We did more marketing this year than in previous years," Dr. Gash said. "You can never be certain why summer enrollment is trending upward, but we are working harder and that never hurts."
Radio, movie-theater and newspaper ads have been bolstered by direct mail and an e-mail campaign to UNCP's full-time students, Dr. Gash said.
"We have also added a special session for teachers seeking certification, and we have become more flexible in the times we offer courses," Dr. Gash said. "We have courses that begin at 6:20 a.m."
Dr. Gash said the economy may have some effect on summer enrollment and rising full-time enrollment may be a factor.
"I am optimistic that we can build on these gains in future years," he said.