Summer School Economics: A Worthwhile Endeavor?

Jenna Cortez, Morning Period (Aparicio), Honorbound

Economics, a course which all Ursuline Academy seniors will inevitably take, revolves around the idea that a person will always seek to maximize his or her utility at any given time. Maximizing ones utility essentially means that people act to ensure their own well-being. Or, in the words of Charles Wheelan, “individuals act to make themselves as well off as possible.”[1]

What maximizes someone’s utility? Well, it depends. Different people derive utility from different goods and services. This can be chalked up to a matter of personal preference; due to a wide variety of backgrounds and statuses, it is easy to see how one person’s preference differs from that of another.[2]

Take this summer-school economics class as an example of preference. While available to all, most seniors opt out of taking Economics over the summer; this decision clearly shows that specific people value particular aspects of their lives differently. Firstly, summer school requires a monetary fee of around a thousand dollars. Certainly, some students saw this fee and were turned off instantly at the fact that the course cost an additional $1,000, when during the school year the cost of the class is included in their overall tuition fee. However, the monetary aspect was not the leading deterrent of this class. In fact, it was undeniably the aspect of time commitment that turned many away. Most girls saw this class as a major time commitment-three hours a day and five times a week for three weeks-that would waste a good portion of their summer. This idea of losing a large chunk of one’s summer can be defined as opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost represents the price (while it may not be monetary as in this example) a person pays when making a certain decision.[3] The decision, in this case, is taking Economics over the summer; the opportunity cost is both time and money.

Utility and opportunity cost work hand-in-hand. A person derives pleasure from maximizing his or her utility, and in turn pays the cost of maximizing this utility through opportunity cost-what is lost when choosing to act in a certain way.

Taking this into consideration, I can finally conclude that taking Economics over the summer was indeed the best possible way to both increase my utility and decrease my opportunity cost. While to some it may seem like a waste of time, I am actually learning all the course material that would have been covered during the normal school semester. Therefore, I am freeing up time that I would have spent studying economics during the school year. My decision to take Economics during the summer also brings me more happiness than I would have if I had to take it during the school year. The more time saved during the school year, the longer I have to spend on other classes as well as with family and friends. So, when weighing the options, taking Econ over the summer dramatically increases my utility while simultaneously having a lower opportunity cost than if I were to take it during the school year.

[1] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 6.

[2] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 7.

[3] Henderson, David R. “Opportunity Cost.” Opportunity Cost: The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics | Library of Economics and Liberty. Accessed June 19, 2017.

Image Citation: “Become an Economics Tutor.” SLC | UC Berkeley. Accessed June 19, 2017.


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