Texas colleges expect larger online summer classes as students lose jobs, internships

Rising sophomores Macy Waldman, left, an integrative studies major at the University of North Texas, and her sister, Barry Waldman, a pre-nursing student the University of Texas at Arlington, do not plan to return to their campuses this fall.      Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune
Rising sophomores Macy Waldman, left, an integrative studies major at the University of North Texas, and her sister, Barry Waldman, a pre-nursing student the University of Texas at Arlington, do not plan to return to their campuses this fall. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

This fall, Macy and Barry Waldman, sisters from Wimberly, won’t be among peers returning to their respective college campuses at the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Instead they’ll be home, taking classes online to avoid catching the new coronavirus in packed lecture halls and communal dining rooms.

Staying home will likely set the rising sophomores back at least one semester in their studies, said their mother, Courtney Waldman, who worries about her daughters getting exposed to the virus while at school and then bringing it home during visits. The 53-year-old said tacking on the extra time is worth it to protect them and her husband, who had a medical incident on Christmas Day.

“They're more than willing to stay back a year if it means they're not going to kill their father,” Waldman said.

To get a head start on their year at home, Waldman said, the family is shelling out $6,900 to enroll both daughters in summer school at their institutions.

“We’re playing a little bit of defense,” Courtney Waldman said.

The Waldmans aren’t the only ones turning to online summer school while the fall remains in flux. As Texas higher education institutions brace for a financial hit as students navigate health and economic concerns, several schools contacted by The Texas Tribune are reporting significant jumps in summer enrollment compared with last year.

College students suddenly finding more time on their hands with canceled jobs, internships and trips abroad are flocking to online summer classes at Texas institutions en masse. And schools, seeing an opportunity to court students stuck at home, are ramping up their summer offerings and discounting tuition.