Barnard faculty and students discussed the experiences of first-generation and low-income students at town hall hosted by Barnard’s Student Government Association on Wednesday evening.
Students shared their frustrations surrounding the lack of awareness over available scholarships, funding—such as the Bear Essentials fund, which is meant to cover basic necessities—and academic mentorship necessary for low-income and first-generation students to succeed at Barnard.
The setup of the event enabled FGLI students to converse in small groups with administrators including Dean of the College Avis Hinkson, BC ’84, Director of Financial Aid Nanette DiLauro, Director of Opportunity Programs Bernetta Parson, and Associate Dean of Beyond Barnard A-J Aronstein.
Vice President of Campus Life Aku Acquaye, BC ’18, said the administration’s lack of communication with FGLI students on ways in which they can receive institutional support has placed the burden of navigating this process on them.
“Students mentioned the need for additional financial resources in terms of scholarships to apply for, and how students will go to the financial aid office … and [the financial aid office is] not connected with those resources or don’t know of those resources,” Acquaye said.
SGA Vice President for Policy Alicia Simba, BC ’19, agreed, adding that despite the existence of available resources for FGLI students, information on how to access those resources remains largely hidden.
For example, the Higher Education Opportunity Program at Barnard is a program which provides low-income students with “academic support services.” Jasmin Torres Piñon, BC ’21, participated in one of Barnard’s Academic Success & Enrichment Programs, which introduced the various resources available to FGLI students.
“If you were in ASEP over the summer, you know about some of these resources, but there are more than just 30 FGLI students at Barnard, and if people weren’t in ASEP they wouldn’t know [about those resources],” she said.
During the town hall, administrators showed support by offering mentorship to students, though no formal means of communication and advising was proposed. They also highlighted the recently-unveiled Beyond Barnard program, which is dedicated to connecting current students with alumnae and helping them find employment opportunities, as another resource available to FGLI students. In addition, they pointed to a new grant available to subsidize students’ summer internships and housing.
Hinkson, who was a low-income student while attending Barnard, also said that the college works to make resources accessible to students and invited students to reach out to faculty members.
In addition to concerns over the administration’s transparency, students also emphasized the need for the college to hire an advisor for FGLI students and establish a website to communicate important information.
Solace Mensah-Narh, BC ’21, said that these problems are indicative of the way that Barnard treats FGLI students.
“Faculty don’t understand what students have to go through,” she said. “All I can think about are the students who literally have to work all the time to fund their time at Barnard … to wake up every day to attend an institution [they] know isn’t made for [them].”