U. committee to study low-income students
The University announced the creation of the Trustee Ad Hoc Committee on College Access, a new committee that aims to increase the access of higher education to low-income students, last Monday.
The committee is set to meet for the first time on Jan. 26 and will include trustees, faculty, staff, alumni and students. After two subsequent meetings in April and May, the committee will issue an interim report of its findings to the University Board of Trustees.
In her charge to the University about the committee on Jan. 7, President Tilghman cited the increasing socioeconomic diversity of the student body in the last 15 years due to changes in financial aid policy. These changes included eliminating student loans from financial aid packages as well as offering full financial aid eligibility to international students.
Despite these changes, Tilghman said that students whose families are in the top 5 percent of the American income scale are still significantly overrepresented in application pools.
Tilghman, chair of the new committee, initiated discussion of this discrepancy in her annual report to the Board of Trustees last summer.
"I chose to discuss the issue of education access for a variety of reasons including that this is a subject of national concern," she said. "Weíre looking at the topic of education access from two different prisms, the first being a Princeton-specific prism and the other is a national prism."
Though the committee is currently limited to members affiliated with Princeton, Tilghman said the committee may recommend coordinating action with other colleges to increase the access of low-income students to education.
Andrew Blumenfeld '13, a founding member of Students for Education Reform and a member of the La Canada Unified School District governing board, was invited to join the committee because of his interest in education policy.
"Thereís a supply side and demand side to increasing educational access," Blumenfeld said. "From Princeton's perspective as a higher education institution, they are in demand of more students and would like them to come from a variety of backgrounds, including low socioeconomic positions. I work in a K-12 district and we are the ones supplying these students."
In order to improve low-income students' access to higher education, Blumenfeld said he believes changes have to come from both the supply and demand sides. He believes that Princeton not only needs to be more aggressive about recruiting low-income students, but that high schools on the supply side must do more to prepare students to achieve in a rigorous college setting.
"I think it's a worthwhile endeavor for the University to look into possible reform and no matter the findings, I hope we arenít the only ones that end up doing it but other universities join in as well," he said. "It's a great stepping-stone in the direction of increasing opportunity and access."
USG president-elect Shawon Jackson '15, who has been outspoken on the experience of low-income students at prestigious universities, said he is extremely supportive of the committee.
"I am definitely impressed that they plan to not only reach out to low-income students to apply to schools such as Princeton, but also to discover how to better the experience of low-income students once they are in college," he said.
Jackson, a low-income student himself, said he believes that cultural differences can arise between low-income students and high-income students. As a liaison for the Quest Scholars Network, a group of low-income undergraduate students who applied to college via the QuestBridge program, he attended a training program last summer in which members discussed their experiences in the college setting.
Jackson said that he noticed that many students felt that cultural differences in students' backgrounds could often lead to feelings of isolation for low-income students. He hopes that the committee's findings will address the problem and instead allow cultural differences to enrich students' college experiences.
It will be up to current Board chair Kathryn Hall '80 and the University's next president to decide whether the committee will continue to meet in the next academic year, Tilghman said.