…Last fall, Ms. Berg and two classmates started a group to raise awareness of class and to advocate for more support for low-income students. So far, the group has put on several events, including a well-attended panel: “How Public Is Our Public University?” Next academic year, organizers want to reach out to new students especially, as they try to get their peers talking more openly about the social and economic forces that shape their lives.
Virginia’s flagship isn’t the only place such a dialogue is emerging. Spurred by growing income disparities, the aftereffects of the recession, and debates over admissions policies that consider students’ ability to pay, students on many campuses are trying to ignite frank—and sometimes uncomfortable—conversations about class. They are running flash seminars, financial-literacy workshops, and surveys. They’re big on “dialoguing.” And like those here at Virginia, many students are pushing their administrations for more support—stepped-up recruitment, more-egalitarian admissions policies, mentoring networks, resource guides—to help underprivileged students thrive.
Over the past decade, some selective colleges have sought to boost socioeconomic diversity with generous financial-aid policies. But research has shown that many talented low-income students still don’t apply to selective colleges, and first-generation students in particular tend to drop out at higher rates than their peers. <Read more.>