Life in Balance On Oct. 23, UA President Manuel Pacheco participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the First Year Center in Bear Down Gym, a place where first-year students can receive advising, tutoring, and other services to make their adjustment to the university smoother. The center consolidated the once dispersed resources for new students to make finding help easier. Speaking from personal experience with some of these services, I can say that the staff is very helpful, and the services themselves are useful.
Unfortunately, a great program which could truly compliment the center's services, called New Start, remains needlessly closed to many worthy university students.
New Start is a six-week summer program which gives freshmen a chance to take their first three-unit college class (in either English, mathematics or anthropology) for credit, while getting oriented to campus life and fellow students through academic and social activities.
The participants themselves described New Start as "great ... help[ful]" and said they were "learning more than if [they] were on [their] own." One former student even said she would not have "survived" without it (Arizona Summer Wildcat, June 26).
It is truly regrettable, then, that New Start, a creative and intelligent solution to the discomfort all freshmen face, is not open to all freshmen. Only ethnic minorities and students receiving need-based financial aid who have applied to or been accepted at the university and are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, are eligible, said Sylvia Mioduski, director of the University Learning Center and the New Start program.
Mioduski explained that though participants pay a $60 fee plus the usual add-ons, the university pays New Start tuition costs. Further, state budget cuts in 1993 left the university without enough money to support Summer Bridge, a program comparable to New Start and open to all freshmen. Mioduski noted that future funding for Summer Bridge does not seem to be likely, and pointed out that the First Year Center provides services for all freshmen.
Clearly, this is a disappointing situation for incoming freshmen who are interested in New Start, but who are not eligible. In light of budget reductions, however, we are to conclude that the current situation is the best that can be hoped for. Those who need the most help get the intensive New Start, while those who need less help must do the "Wildcat thing" and Bear Down at the First Year Center.
We need not accept this. To do so would be to make harmful assumptions about students in the name of political correctness, while ignoring a better solution.
It is an insult to ethnic minorities and those receiving need-based financial aid at the university that they are deemed, by default, to be more academically and socially in need of a formal program than other freshmen. Similarly, it is a great disservice to white middle-to-upper-class students to assume that they will acclimate more easily to college due to the light pigment in their skin or the money in their wallets. These things do not always hold true.
Let me be clear. I do not want to see New Start ended. Rather, by accepting a better solution instead of relying upon these gross assumptions, those who need this program, regardless of color or money, will be able to participate in it. Here is a suggestion:
Interested eligible freshmen of any ethnicity who can afford to pay their own tuition and other fees for New Start, which Mioduski says can run high, should be asked to do so and be allowed to participate. Those of any ethnicity who cannot afford the entire expense, however, should pay what they can, as calculated by formula, and have the rest paid or loaned to them by the university. Not only would all those who are interested have a chance to participate, but the university would be spending its reduced amounts of money on those who actually need it most, a fair way to fund a great program.
Kristen Roberts is a pre-education sophomore. Her column, 'Life in Balance,' appears every other Thursday. Her homepage can be found at http://www.u.arizona.edu/~knr.