The lack of diversity on William Jewell College’s campus has recently prompted certain groups to speak about it more openly. Though groups like the Black Student Association [BSA] have been around and active on Jewell’s campus for many years now, the creation of new groups, like the Latinx group Mi Gente, is increasing the voice for Jewell students of color.
Efforts by these groups have helped to expand resources for students of color already enrolled at Jewell, but little is known of the initiatives the office of admissions is participating in to increase campus diversity.
The piece “Broadening our Definition of Diversity” by Tori Haring-Smith in the Association of American Colleges and Universities Liberal Education publication outlines the need for more diversity in institutions of higher education.
“Our society is diverse, and our campuses should reflect that,” Haring-Smith wrote. “We also seek diverse student bodies, because we know from numerous research studies that engaging with others from a variety of different backgrounds improves the learning environment. Our learning is impoverished when we are in a homogeneous group of like-minded individuals who share the same kinds of experiences, beliefs and aspirations.”
Before discussing the new initiatives that Jewell is participating in, let’s go through the recruiting process. Brian Haines, Associate Dean of Admission, outlined the process of recruiting a student.
“Well, we have a variety of entry points for students,” Haines said. “Our counselors attend college fairs and visit high schools. Students who are interested can fill out an information form and submit that. Students can visit the website and send in a form to let us know that they are interested. We acquire names through testing organizations like ACT and SAT. We’ll send them something in the mail; they’ll get a series of emails about the college with the ability to click on the things they’re interested in. As they go through their sophomore and junior years, they continue to receive communication. We really encourage everybody to visit and experience Jewell for themselves.”
While this is the standard recruitment process, some high school students, however, don’t have the guidance or support in the college application process or the means to attend college that many other students have. Because Jewell does not want to lose potential students, the admissions office at Jewell has started and is participating in a few local initiatives to aid these students in their process.
“The KC scholars program is a relatively new partnership,” Haines said. “We’re really excited to be one of several colleges to be partnering with KC scholars. Their purpose is to provide all students, regardless of income, age or ethnicity, with the chance to earn a college degree and get a good job. This is something that appeals to us and we work close with them. We are hosting a group, actually several groups, from KC scholars here on campus soon.”
The KC scholars program launched in September of 2016 through the Kauffman Foundation, however, it plans to attain 501(c)(3) status and have its own board of directors by July 2017. The scholars program has three tracks:
– the “traditional” track lets 11th grade students apply to receive $10,000 annually for up to five years;
– the “adult learner” track lets individuals over 24 at the time of college enrollment apply to receive $5000 annually for up to five years;
– the “college savings match” track lets “high school ninth graders apply to receive a 4-to-1 match on contributions into a 529 college savings account. The maximum match granted is $5,000, but an additional $2,000 is available in incentives for completing key college-ready milestones in high school” (from KC Scholars website).
Along with the KC scholars program, Jewell has begun a partnership with the Kansas City, Kan. school district.
“We’ve partnered, in the last two years now, with the Kansas City, Kan. school district,” Haines said. “They’ve got a really unique program where parents can sign a waiver, allowing the school to submit a student’s transcripts and test scores before they even apply. Then, the participating schools can review that information and provide an award letter—an admission letter and an award letter—contingent on the student applying.
The program seems successful because students who found out about Jewell through this program enrolled for the upcoming year, and Haines says the program is looking at expanding its reach.
“Additionally, there are other schools in the area interested in launching programs like this in the future and we are more than happy to partner with them,” Haines said. “I’ve heard from two schools, nothing is finalized yet, but the program is expanding to the Missouri side and there is interest. I’m really hopeful that goes through because it’s a great opportunity.”
These two programs are great first steps for Jewell in order to increase diversity on campus. Jewell Admissions is also expanding opportunities to increase enrollment for women in STEM and opportunities for first-generation college students.
“We work with the KC STEM alliance, which is really focused on women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math as majors,” Haines said. “We also work with AVID, which is focused on first-generation college students, [and] the Missouri college advising core, which is a group of advisors who go into school districts that may not have the resources for college advisors. We are actively participating in programs with those groups as a way to try to increase diversity—all kinds of people from all walks of life.”
Haines says that increasing diversity is a priority.
“The biggest thing for us, no matter who people are and where they are coming from, is that we want to be as inclusive as possible,” Haines explained. “And so, when students go through the application process we really just want to get to know the student and to connect them to resources on campus and answer the questions that they have about our school regardless of race, religion or other factors. We just want to make sure everyone feels welcome and included.”
Though diversity may be a priority of the admissions office, currently Jewell offers no scholarships specifically for students of color. When asked if the size of Jewell’s endowment was to blame for this lack, Daniel Holt, Director of the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarship Services, responded.
“Jewell’s endowment has not affected our ability to aid students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds,” Holt said. “We strive to provide students receiving Pell Grants from the Federal government (those identified to have the highest financial need) with enough resources necessary to make a Jewell education possible.”
Pell Grants, funded by the federal government through the Department of Education, are awards for undergraduate students with demonstrated need. For the 2016-2017 school year, the maximum Pell Grant award was $5,815, which is calculated based on demonstrated need, cost of college attendance and other factors. While this can go a long way toward helping to pay for college, for many it is not enough.
Overall, Jewell admissions is working to increase diversity on campus. Continuing and expanding Jewell’s existing partnerships will continue to increase diversity, and setting up scholarships specifically for students of color, though controversial (i.e. affirmative action), would be effective in increasing the number of students of color on campus.
“Diversity makes our campus community stronger,” Haines said. “From what I hear about our CTI curriculum, the tough questions that students answer in there, the debates are enriched by people from different walks of life. Diversity truly enriches our campus community.”