By: Scripps Student Organizers
Historically, colleges have worked to exclude certain groups of people through a variety of methods. This includes those with learning disabilities, low-income students, religious minorities, and students of color. In college admissions, processes like affirmative action and standardized testing are oftentimes described as necessities, but rarely are they described as being fundamental methods of racial formation. While affirmative action does at a surface level help people of color get into schools they otherwise would be unable to because of systematic disadvantages, it also works to reinforce race as an essential trait.
Similarly, systems like financial aid do provide some support to help students of color from lower income families to attend higher education, but then reinforce race when these same students are given little to no support once they arrive on campus. Scripps College — like most private colleges — is complicit in this process.
Although financial aid could, in theory, be an attempt to help students who cannot otherwise afford to pay for college, the financial aid process at private liberal arts colleges (LAC) like Scripps works to create just enough diversity to appeal to wealthier, liberal students. As an institution, Scripps needs racial and socioeconomic diversity to survive as an LAC. In order to boost their statistics and ratings, Scripps works to get students of color and other students from marginalized backgrounds in the door. What happens once these students arrive?
Scripps College is surviving as a liberal arts college, but are students of color and low-income students surviving at Scripps? Shouldn’t these students, just like other students, be focused on thriving in college and not be worried about mere survival? Scripps and its financial aid office should do more to support students of color and low-income students during their years on campus and help them thrive for all four years.
Currently, the structure of financial aid at Scripps makes it incredibly difficult for students to know whether they will actually be able to even attend all four years of school. The financial aid office only offers estimates for the first year financial aid package of prospective students, leaving students with no information about the aid they may or may not receive during the following years.
Unfortunately, a large number of students see their financial aid packages decrease over time with little warning or explanation. For many students and their families, this results in four years of stress and worry about their financial situation directly caused by the uncertainty of their decreasing financial aid package. This leaves students of color and low-income students with little to no resources, a very small community of students with shared experiences, and sometimes no option but to transfer or drop out of college.
As a group of students on campus, the Scripps Student Organizers wanted to more publically draw attention to this and the numerous other problems with the way that financial aid is managed. In painting the Pomona wall, we hope to widen the audience of our demands and invite other students to share their own experiences with financial aid. The design was based on the “More Scripps” campaign, which asks for donations from alumni, students, and faculty to continue to evolve and improve Scripps College. The wall included part of the original campaigns slogan, “More Knowledge, More Truth, More Justice, More Opportunity, We Want More,” and then continued with “from financial aid. Don’t manage diversity, promote it.”
The “More Scripps” campaign never mentions the struggle that many low-income students and students of color face while on Scripps campus; nowhere do they describe striving for more diversity, inclusion, and resources for students on their own campus. Because of this, we felt compelled to begin a discussion that directly links financial aid and race and also demands more from Scripps College: more knowledge, more truth, more justice, and more opportunity from the office of financial aid.
This is only the beginning of Scripps Student Organizer’s investigation into the experiences of students of color and low-income students at Scripps. We will continue to organize and demand tangible change from the administration. First, we ask Scripps Administration for the implementation of individual financial aid advisors to help students navigate the financial aid process in a manner similar to the academic and major advisors already in place. Second, we ask for an increased amount of transparency from the Financial Aid Office — students should be kept informed about how decisions regarding their opportunities and well-being are made. Finally, we ask that the Scripps Office of Admission make standardized test scores optional to make Scripps a more accessible institution to students that have historically been and are currently being excluded using standardized testing.
We demand more from the Scripps College Administration. We hope you will join us.