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Credit: Isabel Liang

Penn students have had their internships, jobs, and summer travel plans canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend daily life, leaving many with spare time to learn. 

As a result, Penn added over 300 openings in various courses to its summer course offerings after students showed an "incredible interest" in taking classes over the summer, Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education Nora Lewis said.

Lewis said students have registered for over 3,700 course units as of May 1, a 70% increase from May 2019. 

Each undergraduate school will likely continue to add more courses, seats, and sections for Summer Session II, which begins July 1, as students continue to demonstrate interest to their academic advisors, Lewis said.

"We're working closely with the College office and other academic offices to continue to meet demand and to continue to add courses that students want and need," Lewis said. "We'll be looking to add more seats, sections, instructors, TAs, graders, and things like that to allow us to expand the courses."

Courses that fulfill the College's Quantitative Data Analysis requirement and introductory level courses in a number of fields have been among the most popular courses, Lewis said. 

All summer math classes, as well as multiple Psychology, Cinema Studies, Economics, Spanish, and Geology courses, have increased their sizes, Certificate and Non-Degree Programs Director of the College of Liberal and Professional Studies Jaime Kelly wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Lewis said the price of each summer course unit will not change from $4,566, as the "value of a Penn course unit is the same whether the course is delivered on campus, online, or in a hybrid format."

"Our Penn instructors have had to put even more time and effort into the development of online courses this summer," Lewis said. "Plus, there is another whole team of people we've added behind the scenes supporting the faculty and the students. So it's not cheaper; it's actually more expensive for the University to develop and deliver these courses."

Rising Engineering sophomore Vishaal Kumar said he originally hoped Penn would reduce the cost of summer courses. 

"The [online] education just isn't the exact same [as in person]," Kumar said. "But I understand why the price cannot change."

Kumar said he is taking MATH 240: Calculus III and PHYS 151: Principles of Physics II: Electromagnetism and Radiation this summer in an effort to complete requirements and advance in future coursework.

He said the registration process for both classes "went pretty smoothly," but added that he knew friends who had a difficult time getting into the classes they wanted to take.

Rising College junior Emilie Dávila had a different experience while registering for summer classes, describing it as both "frustrating and confusing."

Dávila said she wanted to take CHEM 242: Organic Chemistry II ⁠— a requirement for applying to medical school ⁠— during Summer Session II, but has been unable to get into the class so far.

"It seems like a lot of people want to take this class," Dávila said. "I know a lot of people, myself included, on the waitlist [to take the class,] who have emailed the LPS department multiple times and have been told the waitlist is very extensive."

She said the class has been capped at 50 students since registration opened, and she is "still waiting to see if they will increase the amount of seats."

"I don't know what to expect right now, and I just want to know what I'll be doing for the rest of the summer," she said.