In light of the recent article in The Hoya highlighting the fact that legacy students are twice as likely to be admitted to Georgetown, it is clear that the university must continue working to ensure a diverse student body. To do so, Georgetown must empower students who come from low-income environments. From assimilating on campus to struggling with mental health concerns, low-income students face numerous obstacles in their journey toward graduation that average Georgetown students do not. In this way, slowly but surely, Georgetown is moving into two cultures, delineated by class — separate, but unequal.

Let us not be mistaken: Georgetown has done a laudable job in furnishing the education of low-income students in some regards. For example, no program is more salient than the Georgetown Scholarship Program, which is, for some low-income students, the only source of community that Georgetown offers. In addition to its financial assistance, GSP can transform Georgetown from a climate of anguish to one of success for low-income students by providing resources such as career connections and mental health services.

There will always be spaces the low-income student may never have access to at Georgetown, simply because of their financial background. Thus, the sense of community found in GSP, and subsequent pride in this community, gives low-income students a sense of power that they do not have at other institutions. For that, Georgetown must be commended.

The plight of the low-income student, however, is multidimensional and cannot solely be understood through finances. Yes, Georgetown provides generous scholarships to students near the bottom of the income bracket. But low-income students still must deal with insecurities and fears that many of their Georgetown classmates may never have to encounter.

The fear that one’s credit card will be declined while buying a coffee. The fear of having to say “no” once again to spending time with friends in order to work to not only put food on one’s own plate, but to provide for their little brother back home. The fear of having to take only classes that pertain to their future career in order to reconcile their feelings of inferiority from years of substandard education. The fear of not being able to print or do laundry this week because finances are scarce. The fear of having to pursue a lucrative career rather than a fulfilling one because the only security the low-income student can achieve is financial security.

Little things most Georgetown students take for granted — going to the gym, getting involved in clubs and eating three meals a day — low-income students may view as luxuries best archived for the future. Consequently, assimilation becomes difficult or non-existent, because socialization is viewed as diametrically opposed to one’s academic and career goals. This mindset can detract from networking opportunities, further reinforcing how low-income students are unable to gain access to the same opportunities other Georgetown students are.

The burden of being a low-income student afflicts one’s mental health as well, and far too often it goes undiscussed. Feelings of inferiority run rampant, where the phrase “why me?” accompanies the small moments of reprieve in a busy day. This is not to mention that the low-income student’s resiliency — a seemingly ubiquitous virtue among such a demographic — can lead to self-destruction. It becomes difficult to reach out for help when one has had to often scratch and claw towards success all alone. All the while, the inevitable failures each college student endures sting twice as hard for low-income students because they elicit a fear that they will return to the environment they worked so hard to leave.

Granted, we cannot paint all low-income students with a broad brush: It would be naive to assume that all of us low-income students have had the same experiences. Moreover, some of these issues are not exclusive to low-income students: Mental health concerns and feelings of inferiority plague many Hoyas. However, when taking those factors in conjunction with the unique struggles of the low-income student, it becomes clear that low-income students often experience a culture that narrowly focuses on achievement and thus views other important aspects — such as extracurricular and social endeavors — as auxiliary, almost frivolous, components of the college experience.

We understand the difficulty in resolving this issue; as two rising sophomores still trying to understand the dynamics of Georgetown, we are also attempting to find solutions to the increasingly isolated culture of the low-income student. But for a school that prides itself on ensuring a well-rounded college experience for all of its students, it must recognize the reality of this significant portion of Georgetown’s student body, and strive to do more. Even little ways in which to assist low-income students, from reaching out to local food banks and social workers to reducing textbook costs, should be considered and acted upon in our efforts to close this gap.

 

Hashwinder Singh and Khendrick Beausoleil are sophomores in the College. Minority Report appears every other Friday.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for drawing attn to some of the challenges – and triumphs – of incredible low-income students. There are indeed wildly different experiences students can have here. I appreciate you taking this on!

    I’m eager to hear the recommendations from the just-concluded Advisory Board on Access and Affordability which is focusing on substantive institution-wide changes that get at these exact issues.
    That’s important to stay tuned to!

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