By Olivia Hart
Higher education in the United States is known for being incredibly valuable, but also incredibly expensive. For many individuals and families across the country, these expenses are out of the question if additional scholarships and financial aid are not available. While many institutions and government programs offer options to help students pay for their education, such as grants, scholarships, subsidized loans, and need-based aid, many still argue that these options alone are not enough.
A group of undergraduates at Simmons have recently begun to speak out about the lack of financial support offered to many low-income students, and called for an initial meeting for those with similar concerns on Monday, March 13.
First-years Meagan Wilber and Alexus Cruz held an informal gathering in Morse Hall to discuss these topics and describe their ideas for improving financial services and support for low-income students. Corey Zohlman, Director of the Office for Student Life and Activities at Simmons, attended this meeting as well.
One issue Cruz and Wilber brought up was the absence of a Student Support Services program at Simmons. Student Support Services (SSS) is a government program that is meant to increase retention and graduation rates at institutions of higher education in the United States by offering various services such as tutoring and academic guidance/assistance in course selection. Its requirements in regards to financial support include “assist[ing] student[s] with information on both the full range of student financial aid programs, benefits and resources for locating public and private scholarships; and assistance in completing financial aid applications.”
Wilber and Cruz expressed frustration that this program does not exist at Simmons, and sought to establish a similar program/system of services that would be different and more personalized than what the Student Financial Services Office currently offers.
After the meeting, Wilber and Cruz drafted a list of goals and demands for improved financial support at Simmons based on what they discussed.
“Low income students and students paying their own way to college have unique struggles and may be completely unable to remain at Simmons College due to the high costs,” they wrote. “A program needs to be put into place to give additional financial and informational support to students with a predetermined maximum EFC, but having informational support available for all. The goal of the program will be similar to that of the Department of Education’s TRiO program called Student Support Services, assisting in the retention and graduation of low-income students and with the additional goal of overall adding to the student’s’ college experience… This program would benefit the college by making it…more inclusive and prestigious while also increasing diversity… of the students, which is important in this college, especially concerning its focus on social justice.”
They drafted several ways that the College could re-allocate funding for this proposed program, such as through “more effective energy and food use.” This could include the conservation of food waste through programs such as Lovin’ Spoonfuls, adjusting the heating in student dorms, and reducing the amount of lighting on the academic campus on weekends and during night hours.
While the mission of Wilber and Cruz is still in its infancy, they attracted a strong group of like-minded students at their meeting who wish to change the policies and services regarding financial aid at Simmons. Wilber and Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.