Some Mississippi students use semester break for more classes

Published 8:02 pm Friday, December 22, 2006

Whether they’re driven or desperate, more and more college students are signing up for torture during the Christmas break.

Not torture exactly, but what appears to be a close facsimile. Thousands of students are enrolling in minisessions, which squeeze an entire semester’s work into just a few days in class.

“I really loved it,” said Christy Lofton, 20, a University of Southern Mississippi student who took a squeezed-together class a few months ago.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Lofton is opting out of taking the minisession offered at USM over this Christmas break so she can work, but lots of others are signing up.

USM is joining the University of Mississippi and Mississippi Valley State University in offering the condensed semesters during the break.

“It’s a compact opportunity for students to either catch up or get ahead,” said USM’s Joe Paul, vice president for student affairs.

Cynthia Moore, associate provost at USM, said enrollment this year is more than three times what it was last year, the first time the school offered the winter minisession.

She said there were 14 classes offered last year, with 262 students signed up. This year, there’ll be 50 classes, and 873 have signed up.

Enrollment also is climbing at Ole Miss, the first school in the state to offer the winter sessions three years ago.

Don Howie, director of inter-session programs at Ole Miss, said enrollment is about 2,900 this semester, or close to 20 percent of the student body.

That’s up 14 percent from last year, and about 34 percent from two years ago.

He said the largest group of students who take the classes are seniors, despite that most of the classes offered are first- and second-year classes.

Many of the students, he said, are probably catching up on something they failed or dropped in their first two years in school.

Over at Valley, things are a little different.

Ronald Love, Valley’s director of continuing education, said the school has a heavily nontraditional student body, meaning lots of them are older and they work.

That means they cannot always get to class between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, as a traditional college student does.

So Valley offers classes pretty much all year long, Monday through Saturday, up through 9 p.m.

This is the second year the university is offering the winter minisession, he said, and it’s popular.

He said about 250 are signed up, which is about 10 percent of the student body.

“It’s about increasing access,” Love said.

Access is fine, but what about those marathon, eight-hour classes? Aren’t they impossible?

Lofton, the student at USM, acknowledged there are a lot of coffee cups in the class in the morning.

However, it’s only for a week or two.

“Once that’s over,” she said, “it’s a whole lot better than when you’re in class.”