First generation and low-income students need support

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Resources for first generation and low-income students are severely lacking on this campus. 

First generation low-income student identity is the least talked about on college campuses across the United States. Last Spring Term, Lawrence University hosted a convocation speaker who addressed many issues that first generation, low-income students face. One topic in particular was the conversation surrounding feeding students over breaks. The speaker called for the opening of dining halls throughout these breaks so that low-income students who work on or near campus don’t have to spend money they are trying to earn to pay their tuition on food.

When the speaker addressed this dire need, Lawrence University made the exact opposite decision. Lawrence has decided against feeding students during both D-Term and winter break this year. Typically, food was served during the few weeks that D-Term was running. Now, however, they’ve decided to not serve anything past Thanksgiving at all until we return in 2024. Already, feeding myself over breaks was an issue – it has now become even more expensive. Apparently, this decision was made because students were said to be unaware that the dining hall was open at all and the university was therefore wasting finances on funding the food service.

I can only draw the conclusion that our university has not been listening to the needs of this community. Winter break food service is one of the many examples.

In addition to no food over winter break, students cannot directly access the LU food pantry and can only request certain food/supplies once a week. Although this system “works,” it is creating more gates for these students. Why are we refusing to let our students step foot in the food pantry? Why are we assuming that students are abusing a resource that is a necessity for others?

I want to acknowledge that I see the attempts that are being made to unite this community, including the conversations that are being created for first generation/low-income students – but these conversations are often inconvenient to attend and do not do much to solve the financial and educational issues that first generation students immediately face. I communicate directly with Associate Vice President for Enrollment Dr. Ashley Lewis on a regular basis, and this is not a critique on her or other first-generation administrators. 

I am requesting tangible action from this institution as a whole, including the student body, faculty, staff and administration.

Lawrence University’s first generation and low-income students need more financial support and aid, campus-provided and free financial advisors and financial education regularly accessible on a one-on-one basis, access to campus food during breaks including summer, education on how the higher education system works and a student body that supports the first generation and low-income students in their midst.