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SA looks into economic inequality

By Maurice Frediere | For the Thresher     10/7/15 3:50am

The Student Association is taking steps to address the challenges faced by low-income and first-generation college students. Lovett College President Griffin Thomas has proposed the creation of the Student Access and Success Working Group, which would aim to make the Rice experience more accessible for all students. 

“The idea is to reach out to the entire student body to collect information and create a list of a lot of the issues that first-generation and low-income students face,” Thomas, a junior, said. “Ideally it would be a completely comprehensive list. That’s going to be very difficult to do but we want to get a wide sample about these huge issues that they’re facing.” 

Thomas has clear goals for what he wants for the initiative by the end of the academic year. Once he gathers more information, Thomas said he aims to start helping low-income and first-generation students directly, working with organizations like Generation College in addition to the serveries and leadership development programs on campus. 

“Once that comprehensive list is created, our goal is going to be to try to rectify some of these problems,” Thomas said. “It could be small changes or large system changes. One of the ideas that has been thrown out is leadership development, because some of the low-income students can’t necessarily participate in some of the leadership activities on campus because they also have to work.”

Griffin, however, said he believes Rice already does aid low-income and first-generation students, pointing to many of the resources that Rice provides.

“At all universities low-income and first-generation students face challenges that other students don’t face,” Thomas said. “Rice actually has a lot more programs for these students [in comparison to other universities]. Our Office of Academic Advising and Office of Student Success Initiatives are very robust, as well as our peer academic advising network, our academic fellows program [and] our Center for Written, Oral and Visual Communication.”

The SA will vote on the Student Access and Success working group on Oct. 14. While the working group is currently a one-year initiative, Thomas sees it as a potential springboard for future change on campus. The future of the initiative itself is dependent on what SA leadership decides at the end of the year. 

“[The future of the program] depends on how the working group goes this semester,” Thomas said. “Putting these issues into the hearts and minds of students and administrators may be enough but I could also see it expanding into a standing committee or have an organization that works on it.” 

For now, Thomas said spreading awareness is the group’s primary objective. 

“We’re not going to be able to fix everything in one year — that’s just not feasible,” Thomas said. “[I want to be able to say] that we developed a list that brought the issues to light so that future students and administrators can’t say, ‘I didn’t know this was an issue.’ Second, ideally we’re going to start the process of trying to correct some of these things.” 

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