Report to improve campus experience for students of diverse backgrounds released, Jacqueline Gufford and Anna Windemuth | Sep 10, 2014
A working group of faculty and administrators led by Dean of the College Valerie Smith has issued a list of recommendations to improve academic achievement and create a more inclusive campus environment for students of all income levels, according to a recently published University press release.
The committee of 11 representatives, originally launched by former University President emeritus Shirley Tilghman, recorded high levels of student satisfaction across all socioeconomic levels, commending the University’s admission policies and generous financial aid packages. These financial aid packages enable lower-income students to participate in academic and residential life to the same degree as higher-income students, the press release states.
However, the committee also noted that certain academic challenges have a disparate impact on students from low-income backgrounds, who may not have had access to the same academic resources in high school as their peers. Furthermore, financial constraints may prevent some students from pursuing campus activities and from feeling fully accepted as members of the community.
The report’s public recommendations address five categories: catalyzation of academic performance; science, technology, engineering and mathematics development; student resource centralization; a supportive campus culture; and the strengthening of relations between the University and parents or home communities.
“We felt that students from all different socioeconomic backgrounds are thriving and having productive experiences, but there was still room for attention to certain areas,” Smith said.
While some of these are already in practice, others will require additional consideration and funds, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 said in the press release.
The full report was not released to the public.
To boost academic performance, the committee proposed reducing curricular obstacles that students from high schools with fewer resources may face.
The committee suggested considering an alternative assessment method for all students during their freshman year, such as providing grades for feedback but not registering these beyond indicating pass/fail on transcripts or reducing the weighted value of students’ freshman year grade point average.
Another committee that convened on grade deflation earlier this year considered recommending altering the freshman grading system, but determined this is not currently an appropriate option.
“A committee that has thought a lot about grading at Princeton has determined that [altering the grading system] is not really viable at this time,” Smith said.
Expanding the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning could help students extend their academic horizons, the report notes, while a “boot camp” for sophomores could help ease them into the demands of independent work for their junior and senior years.
Improving the reach of STEM courses may be promoted by building on existing programs such as the Council on Science and Technology, exploring the use of technology and online modules to improve learning opportunities, and enhancing STEM-specific offerings in the Freshman Scholars Institute.
Stronger support may be achieved by providing further online resources advertising emergency funding and peer mentoring, and by developing further online platforms to monitor students’ academic difficulties.
In addition, the committee suggests building a more inclusive and supportive campus atmosphere through further mentoring and support groups comprised of students, faculty, administrators and alumni. Members of the community could become more equipped to tackle issues surrounding socioeconomic diversity by receiving training and incorporating this information in programs such as freshman orientation, the committee noted.
The data and information collected forthe committee’s deliberationson student satisfaction rates was compiled as a report for Eisgruber, and will not be released to the public, Smith said in a phone interview.
Eisgruber thanked the working group for its recommendations and said it reaffirmed the University’s deep commitment to include students from a full range of socioeconomic backgrounds while ensuring that all students take advantage of academic and extracurricular opportunities, according to the press release.
Eisgruber did not respond to a request for comment.