UC Merced senior Marie True is taking summer classes to graduate in four years.
"I'm getting classes out of the way to lighten my load in the fall," the 21-year-old biology student said. "It helps me graduate on time."
True, who expects to graduate next spring, is one of 1,765 students enrolled in summer classes at UC Merced as of Tuesday.
J. Michael Thompson, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management at UC Merced, said that number represents a 27 percent increase compared to last year at the same time. A total of 1,350 students were enrolled during the same week in 2011.
UC Merced is doing something different this year. Last year, Thompson said, they offered a 6-week session and an 8-week session that started simultaneously.
He said that this year, they staggered the 6-week and 8-week sessions. A total of 444 students enrolled in the 6-week session only, while 984 enrolled in the 8-week session only, with 321 in both.
"What we believe has happened since we staggered the sessions is that we created the opportunity for more students to be able to come," he said.
Sixteen students are from other UC campuses, and 34 are from other colleges, Thompson said. The majority are UC Merced students.
They pay about $400 per unit during the summer, and the average number of units that students are taking this summer is 7.4, Thompson said. The class offerings are from all of the university's curriculum.
Students attend summer school for various reasons, Thompson said. For example, some take laboratory courses to get ahead for the upcoming year, others are trying to catch up, some are trying to graduate in less than four year and others are just trying to graduate on time.
Some students who will start attending UC Merced in the fall also attend summer classes to ease the transition.
Thompson said UC Merced officials are glad to be able to offer opportunities for students to accelerate their education. "We're pleased to be able to offer the classes that they need to be able to do that," he said.
The four-year graduation rate at UC Merced for students who began in fall of 2007 is a 26.8 percent, according to retention and graduation documents. That's the most recent percentage available.
The five-year graduation rate for students who began in fall 2006 was 50.6 percent, according to the documents.
Brenda Ortiz, a spokeswoman for UC Merced, said there are various reasons why students take longer to graduate. Some students might change their major or are also working on minors.
Ortiz said UC Merced has lower graduation rates than other UC campuses, but that might also have to do with the institution being new and not as established. "That's definitely something we are focusing on and working on," she said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or email@example.com.