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.
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.
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.
Last week, the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance (SDA), the student group for low-income and first-generation students at UChicago, hosted a talk by Kevin Jennings. Jennings founded the Harvard First Generation Alumni group and mentoring program. Bringing a wealth of knowledge as a first-generation student himself, Jennings led a dynamic discussion about what elite colleges can do for first-gen students. A few college administrators attended the talk as well, which shows interest at the institutional level. The Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, wrote an article about the event for last week’s Friday edition.
For this week’s Tuesday edition of the Chicago Maroon, two articles were written about separate SDA efforts. One mentioned the launching of a first-generation mentoring program out of the Office of the Dean of Students. The mentoring program will match 1st year, first-generation students with local alumni who were first-generation students themselves. The article mentions the work of SDA focus groups being the inspiration for the development of the mentoring program.
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.
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.
This article focuses on the often confusing definition of “first-generation.” While some define it as a student with parents that never completed college, others say it’s a student with parents that never attended college. I know some people want a set definition, but I think there should be varying levels of what first-generation means. Not all students that exhibit typical first-generation characteristics will fit into an ideal definition.
Chronicle locked the article to subscribers, but thought it was worth sharing. I was able to read it on my mobile device.
October 10, 2014: More Barriers by Chicago Maroon Editorial Board
Another article from my alma mater! The editorial board of the school paper is indicating that the University’s new financial aid initiative doesn’t mean inclusivity for current low-income students. They detail changes that could be made, some my group has been bringing up for years. I’d like to think my group had something to do with the momentum!
On Wednesday, the University of Chicago announced some major initiatives to increase college access and support for low-income students throughout their academic careers.
One of the new initiatives is No Barriers, a program that aims to simplify the admission application and financial aid process. No Barriers includes:
Replacement of student loans with grants in all need-based financial aid packages: This is a big move to reduce college debt, which means the University is finally catching up to peer institutions in terms of sound financial aid policies. Though student activists will never receive credit for this change, the Southside Solidarity Network had been campaigning for a no-loan policy for the past few years.
No college application fees for families seeking financial aid
Elimination of the CSS Financial Aid Profile requirement: The CSS Profile is the worst invention to befall college students, so no one is sad to see this overly complicated application go.
More than 100 free, nationwide information sessions on college application and the financial aid process: These sessions have the potential to make a big impact on the students applying to the College. The simplification of the financial aid process is a step in the right direction. Increasing access isn’t as simple as holding more sessions, though. The University has to be intentional about where they hold these sessions, in addition to their outreach, to ensure low-income students take advantage of these opportunities.
In addition to showing a commitment to increasing college access, the University also announced changes to improve the quality of life for students already in the College.