Summer Term in L&S

This document provides information L&S Policies and Procedures related to Summer Term.

Starting in summer 2016, UW-Madison adopted a new summer-term budget model intended to better serve student needs, expand summer enrollments, and make more efficient use of campus resources. This document reviews the L&S implementation of this model. The new model provides departments with more flexibility to expand summer course offerings, and the potential to develop a new revenue stream. However, it also requires careful planning, with closer attention to revenues and expenses than under the old model.

For specific instructions for Summer 2019, please see the following Gateway page: L&S Summer Budget Proposals

Summer Materials & Box

Departmental materials are available in Box. Folder name = “48-#### Summer Sessions”. Department chairs/directors and managers have access to this folder, and need to distribute these materials to their appropriate staff.

Documents sent via Box

Primary Contacts for L&S Administration

Budget Model

The model is easily summarized by a simple formula for department surplus, but first requires several definitions:

Paid credits are credit hours associated with students who paid tuition to the campus tuition pool. Students in non-pooled programs (e.g., 131 capstone or masters programs) or who received full tuition waivers (e.g., graduate students employed as RAs or PAs or TAs, or students with veteran’s benefits) do not generate paid credits. If the student paid tuition to the campus tuition pool, the student’s credits are regarded as paid credits regardless of the student’s residency status (in-state or out-of-state) or level (undergraduate, graduate, or special student) or other factors that determined the amount of tuition paid. For reference, please consult your department’s final Financial Report with Revenue for summer 2018, which shows both student credit hours (both paid and unpaid) as well as paid credits for each course taught.

Baseline paid credits are the average number of paid credits generated by the department’s group-instruction courses during the base years (2014 and 2015), subject to any subsequent baseline adjustments made by the College.

Revenue per paid credit is the fixed dollar amount that departments will receive for each paid credit above baseline paid credits, and will pay for each paid credit below baseline paid credits. This college-wide amount remains at $300 for 2019. This amount is pegged to the in-state tuition rate, and is unlikely to change unless in-state tuition changes.

Baseline allowance is the dollar amount provided to the department to maintain baseline paid credits. It reflects the department’s average summer allocation during the base years (increased to allow for fringes), subject to any subsequent baseline adjustments made by the College. Going forward, we hope to sustain modest annual increases in the baseline allowance to allow for cost inflation.

Actual costs are the expenses incurred by the department. These costs will be paid on fund 131, and so must include actual fringes on salaries. The planning spreadsheet computes estimated fringes, which may be higher or lower than actual fringes.

Department surplus is the net dollar amount earned by the department. Given the preceding definitions, department surplus is equal to

$300 * (paid credits – baseline paid credits) + baseline allowance – actual costs

The model has been designed so that departments maintaining the status quo (generating paid credits equal to baseline paid credits, and incurring actual costs equal to the baseline allowance) will “break even” (i.e., have department surplus equal to zero). More generally, department surplus can be either positive or negative. Departments receive $300 for each paid credit above baseline paid credits, but must pay $300 for each paid credit below this baseline. Departments are allowed to retain the savings if actual costs are below the baseline allowance, but must pay the difference if actual costs exceed the baseline allowance. Of course, some departments may wish to add new courses, expanding summer payroll (increasing actual costs above the baseline allowance) in order to generate new revenue (increasing paid credits beyond the baseline paid credits). Departments should carefully consider the potential risks and rewards as they develop summer budget proposals. Departments will need to identify departmental funds adequate to reimburse the College for potential losses.

Course cancellation

In mid-April, the College will distribute preliminary Financial Reports using early enrollment data on Student Credit Hours (SCH). Based on past experience, we anticipate that preliminary mid-April SCH may be 10% to 15% higher than final end-of-summer paid credits (due to tuition waivers and students dropping courses throughout the summer). Thus, the preliminary Financial Report is likely to overestimate the surplus generated by individual courses and the department overall. (We encourage you to compare your preliminary 2018 Financial Report with your final 2018 Financial Report with Revenue to see this effect for yourself.) While mid-April SCH data is problematic, we need to provide students with adequate notice of summer course cancellation. We thus use the preliminary Financial Reports for this purpose, imposing a 10% correction for the anticipated decline in credits.

Once the preliminary Financial Reports are distributed, James Montgomery will consult with the divisional associate deans, and then contact departments to discuss any projected losses. In general, as long as the department’s overall surplus is projected to be positive, decisions about course cancellation will delegated to the department, which may decide to run courses as planned or cancel courses to avoid financial losses. If the department’s overall surplus is negative, the College will ask the department for a plan to address anticipated losses. Beyond course cancellation, the department may consider reducing or eliminating fixed costs (e.g., some or all of the summer chair’s salary), shifting costs to non-summer (e.g., gift) funds, or confirming that losses will covered by the collateral source identified in the department’s proposal (thus allowing the course to be taught as originally planned). The department’s plan is subject to College approval, and the College may cancel courses (and eliminate other costs) if the department plan is unacceptable.

Even in cases where decisions are delegated, departments should promptly inform the College of any course cancellation. Once teaching plans have been finalized, departments will receive revised initial Financial Reports reflecting any change in courses, instructors, or expenses.

While this new cancellation policy is intended to help departments avoid losses, it does not eliminate all risk. The mid-summer decline in credits may exceed 10% in some departments. More generally, this new policy should not be viewed as a substitute for careful advanced planning. Cancellations may create significant problems for students who have formed summer plans based on the courses they expected to take. In the long run, substantial numbers of cancellations may undermine student interest in summer term. Courses likely to be poorly enrolled and ultimately cancelled should not be proposed in the first place.

Course variety and scheduling

Ideally, new course offerings should expand (not merely displace) current summer enrollments. Online courses may be a good way to attract a new audience. Departments should consider courses meeting general education and breadth requirements as well as major requirements. Courses that are bottlenecks or otherwise have long waiting lists in the academic year should certainly be considered. Departments should avoid offering multiple courses in the same session that appeal to the same group of students. Idiosyncratic course timing (not conforming to the usual 4-week or 8-week sessions) may be problematic for students, and thus discourage enrollment.

Here are the most commonly used course sessions:


Departments are responsible for advertising summer-term courses to internal audiences (including their own majors, other L&S students, and non-L&S students). Marketing to external (non-UW) audiences will coordinated by the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS). Departments may wish to contact Amy Gunderson to discuss marketing for a particular course, or to explore how potential summer courses could fit into existing marketing initiatives.

New course approval

New courses (not previously offered in the academic year or summer term in any format) require approval by departmental, L&S, and University curriculum committees before they can be offered in the summer term. Courses previously approved for the academic year can be offered in the summer term (in either face-to-face or online formats) without further course approval from curricular committees. Nevertheless, instructors developing new online formats without technical assistance from Learning Support Services should contact James Montgomery to confirm their plans.

Online course development

DCS makes an annual call for proposals for summer course development funds. Recognizing that DCS-funded proposals typically include funding for technical support as well as summer funding to the instructor for course development, departments interested in online course development are strongly encouraged to respond to the DCS call. Departments that nevertheless wish to self-finance online course development (using past summer profits or non-summer funds) are encouraged to contact the James Montgomery to discuss their plans.

Low-enrollment guidelines

Summer planning directly incorporates costs and revenues, making redundant our old low-enrollment guidelines. Whether a course is “profitable” (i.e., makes a positive contribution to department surplus) depends on both the instructional costs and the number of paid credits. (Obviously, courses with higher instructional costs require more paid credits to “break even.”) As already indicated, departments are permitted to run courses that reduce department surplus as long as the department maintains a positive surplus overall and has identified departmental funds adequate to cover potential losses. However, the department should consider whether this is the best use of department surplus.

Graduate courses

Under the new model, courses intended primarily or exclusively for graduate students will generate little or no revenue if these students receive tuition waivers. As with low-enrollment undergraduate courses, departments are permitted to run such courses as long as the department maintains a positive surplus overall. But again, departments should consider whether this is the best use of their surplus.

See Also: