“Class Confessions” Movement Growing

Cornell University students recently launched their own Class Confessions page.
Cornell University students recently launched their own Class Confessions page.

Last year, I wrote a post about the “class confessions‘ movement on campuses across the country. The Facebook pages for anonymous confessions around socioeconomic class have since reached a new height of popularity. Since my post, at least eight new pages have been created at different schools.

This, of course, is not coincidental. It’s a result of a growing network of first-generation and/or low-income groups that increasingly share ideas about the work they are doing. In February 2015, the Ivy League and other elite schools gathered for a first-generation conference at Brown University. I was on a panel discussion with three other students to discuss our work on our campuses. Class Confessions came up in the conversations. I described how UChicago had been inspired by Stanford’s project to start the UChicago Class Confessions Facebook page in early 2013. Shortly after, we saw Northwestern start their Tumblr and Claremont Colleges start a Facebook page.

What was once a smaller movement that seemed to have spread based on a smaller network of students on social media has become even more powerful because of a gathering of students on a national scale. This forum allowed the class confessions idea to take off. I remember the Columbia University students being very interested in learning about how we had launched ours at UChicago. Shortly after the conference, Columbia launched theirs. Several others have followed suit. Here’s a list of all the class confessions pages I’ve found. Let’s keep having these important conversations.

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What does good support for first-gen students look like?

I recently read the article “First-Generation College-Goers: Unprepared and Behind” in the Atlantic.

A few lines about Yale stood out to me. The author quoted Christian Vazquez, a first-gen Yale graduate. He says, ‘There’s a lot of support at Yale, to an extent, after a while, there’s too much support,’ he said, half-jokingly about the myriad resources available at the school.’”

We learn a bit more about Yale’s support systems, “Students are placed in small cohorts with counselors (trained seniors on campus); they have access to cultural and ethnic affinity groups, tutoring centers and also have a summer orientation specifically for first-generation students (the latter being one of the most common programs for students).”

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First-Generation Students and Social Class Links

November 7, 2014: Interview with ‘Poor Teeth’ Writer Sarah Smarsh on Class and Journalism

Really great interview with Sarah Smarsh, in which she offers insight into the way media frames poor people.

November 20, 2014: First generation summit helps students claim their stories

The University of Florida recently held a first generation summit aimed at helping students learn how to claim and tell their stories. There are so many particularities about the college experience and learning how to share that with others in an honest way is an important undertaking.

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10 things to consider about first-generation students

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First-generation UChicago at November 18 event with Kevin Jennings.

A few weeks ago Kevin Jennings, the founder of the Harvard First Generation Alumni group and mentoring program, came to the University of Chicago to give a talk about first-gen students at selective colleges. Based on the talk, I made this list of the top 10 things people should consider about first-gen students, particularly at more selective colleges.

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First-Generation Students and Social Class Links

Make Admissions at Elite Colleges ‘Access Aware’

The president of Grinnell College argues that need-blind admissions do not necessarily lead to a socioeconomically diverse student body. Elite college admissions are largely shaped to reward students that already have the most advantages, which disadvantages low-income students without access to certain resources. Considering need during admissions might actually allow admissions officers to better evaluate students based on the resources allotted to them and not based on the resources they just didn’t have available to them.

Do not neglect the ladder of opportunity at minority-serving colleges

A few faculty and staff of the City College of New York stress the importance of investing in minority-serving colleges. Access initiatives lately have largely emphasized the need to send more low-income students to elite colleges. Elite colleges are idealized as the solutions for students. However, this fails to address the larger problem of lack of investment in many other institutions that already serve a large percentage of minority students. Why not focus on the potential instead of opting for the simplistic solution of funneling low-income students into a set number of elite schools?

Handling down our crowns

Yesenia Arroyo, a student at Princeton, offers a critique of the notion that students shouldn’t pursue a high-paying job after graduation because it hurts the middle class. As a low-income first-generation student, Arroyo says that her education is largely motivated by the possibility of helping her family reach financial stability. While personal fulfillment is often emphasized in educational pursuit, Arroyo says that some students don’t have the luxury of making their education about only themselves.

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Why schools should have a Class Awareness Month

Stanford Class Awareness Week in 2012.
Stanford Class Awareness Week in 2012.

Columbia University’s Quest Scholars Network put a spin on November, dubbing it “Class Awareness Month.” Throughout the month of November and the end of October, Quest Scholars and various other campus organizations presented several events related to socioeconomic background on campus.

The conversations ranged from open conversations on the low-income student experience to discussions about social class in Africa. With a growing push to get low-income students to elite colleges, students have started to raise awareness about the barriers they face once at these colleges. Stanford University’s student group also dedicates a week to class issues in the spring. The more students talk about these issues, the more administrators will take notice of an invisible minority. Continue reading

The “Class Confessions” Movement

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Over the past few years, there has been an increasing consciousness of socioeconomic class on college campuses. We are seeing students raise awareness in various ways, such as through panel discussions and articles. However, some campuses have taken to social media to spur widespread conversations about “class confessions.”

Class confessions refer to anonymous confessions related to students’ class backgrounds. Stanford’s First-Generation Low-Income Partnership started this project a few years ago. They had students make submissions through a google form and discussed them openly at an event. About two years ago, they also used a Tumblr to publicize some of the confessions, which caught my eye.

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Princeton Low-Income Students Form “Hidden Minority Council”

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The Princeton University campus in Princeton, New Jersey.

Across the country, low-income students are gaining momentum at different elite colleges. It’s no coincidence that it’s happening now, as efforts to get low-income students into top colleges increase. Questbridge and Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) are just two of the organizations helping to get students to Princeton. With a bigger population, common issues are more likely to come to light.

In the last academic year, several articles focusing on low-income and first-generation students were published in the Princeton school newspaper. The articles ranged from firsthand accounts from students to an analysis on socioeconomic diversity from a professor.

While each of the students uniquely recalled their upbringing and journey to Princeton, they each had one thing in common: the social and economic barriers they faced once on campus.

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How low-income students gained momentum at UChicago

Over the past two years, the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance at UChicago has accomplished more than I could have imagined. Dedicated to low-income and first-generation students at UChicago, SDA has grown tremendously since I first had the ambiguous idea of starting a conversation on class and low-income students on our campus. SDA has brought up various issues regarding low-income students, such as the inaccessibility of study abroad, classism within college housing, and the lack of orientation week programs for this population. These are all big endeavors, but it all started with a simple article I read two years ago.

By December 2012, I was starting to have more awareness regarding my low-income, first-generation identity. When I read the New York Times article “For poor, leap to college often ends in hard fall,” I knew that I had to start addressing the issues I saw at UChicago. The article highlighted the stories of three college students that had all the academic drive, but had been stopped in their tracks by financial instability, lack of guidance, and the complicated university bureaucracy.

I sent the article around to several people on Facebook and asked each of them “How does this relate to our experience?” It caught the attention of Christian Sanchez, one of the co-chairs of the Organization of Latin American Students. After coming back from winter break, we decided to put together a large group discussion on class at UChicago.

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Duke’s Socioeconomic Diversity Initiative

In April 2014, Duke University announced the creation of a new position dedicated to low-income and first-generation college students. Justin Clapp, a previous assistant director in the Office of Financial aid, is the new director of outreach and access.

The new position is the latest in a series of moves the University has made to accommodate low-income and first-generation students over the past five years.

In the summer of 2009, the Duke Institutional Board approved the Dean of Undergraduate Education’s Socioeconomic Diversity Initiative, which was meant to assess and compare the Duke experiences of students who do and do not receive financial aid.

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