Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Working Class at Yale

A fantastic profile of a young woman named Aurora Nichols who just graduated from my residential college, Davenport, at Yale University. She came from a working-class Virginia background, was mostly on financial aid, worked in the dining hall and struggled to fit in. Class barriers at college are about unspoken rules, spring break in Paris vs. working at Food Lion.

(With parents who were both college professors I didn't feel as left out as Aurora sounds like she did at Yale, but there were enough outrageously rich, socially well-connected, private school kids to alienate anyone who didn't have their own car in high school).

The Hartford Courant article also has a chart of which elite schools enroll the most Pell Grant recipients. The winner? Smith College, my mother's alma mater. :

"With a fraction of Yale's endowment, Smith enrolls twice the percentage of students with Pell Grants. Smith looks beyond SAT scores to identify students with talent and motivation, a practice that the school's dean of enrollment said has probably hurt the school's place in the U.S. News and World Report "best colleges" rankings. Smith also helps students navigate financial aid forms, especially cumbersome for students raised by a single parent.

Once the students are there, Smith provides extra academic support and even a closet full of suits for students to borrow on job interviews. The school sees educational value in exposing students to all viewpoints. It's also a matter of fairness.
"We're a tax-exempt organization," said Audrey Smith, dean of enrollment. "We have a mission to serve the public good and I think we're doing that."

Right on!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paying for college can be one of the biggest sources of debt for many people. It really sucks being $50,000 or more in debt when you get out of school and then trying to figure out how to get a high enough paying job so you can get out of debt.

What Smith is doing is great and if more schools took this sort of interest and proactive approach, then college would be less stressful for many. I would LOVE to see more schools take a similar stance on educating its students and ensuring a positive college experience.