The New College 2022 Equity Report goes into detail on the school’s demographics and how it compares to other liberal arts or Florida institutions. It also outlines specific, practical action steps the school would complete “to increase Black and Hispanic enrollment as a percentage of our First Time in College (FTIC) cohorts over the next three years.”
A program already in place is the Barancik Scholarship, which offers financial assistance and mentorship for local Sarasota-Manatee high school graduates for their college endeavors. Grants and awards such as these offer access to college for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. The financial obstacle is one of the biggest burdens for many first-generation students to overcome. And Barancik targets mentorship as well, recognizing how crucial this is for FTIC student success.
The Catalyst asked first-year Angel Methax her thoughts on why there should be a “First Generation” program at the school. “It’s pretty much for transition,” Methax replied. “It’s transitioning students into college without throwing you in the deep end of the pool. Other kids have parents they can go back to for help when they don’t understand things but we [first-generation students] don’t have that.”
Methax explained that choosing a school that supported students such as herself was important to her and she was upset when the Summer Series was canceled. This proposed series would have been a weekly webinar for families and students. During June and July, the webinar would go over topics from the FAFSA to school-specific terminology and more.
This series was announced through email to students on May 10th, but was canceled less than a month later on May 26 due to “scheduling conflicts.” Methax speculated that this sudden cancellation had to do with a staff departure, leaving Associate Director for Transition and Family Programs Joe Moore to do the job of two people.
As a first-generation student, this Catalyst reporter took advantage of the Welcome Wednesday events at the start of the semester that promised to go over the same material that would have been covered in the Summer Series webinars. Unlike the proposed Summer Series, Welcome Wednesday events were primarily lecture-based, leaving little room for audience members to ask questions, which was the appeal of the webinars when announced in the first place.
According to student employees, in the past, the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) has celebrated First-Generation College Student Recognition Day with an event for students and faculty identifying as such. The event provided resources, support and most of all, community, showing students they were surrounded by peers doing the hard work of becoming the first college graduates in their families, along with faculty providing evidence that it is very much possible. The CEO has confirmed that there are no plans for a similar event this fall. They do still have many resources, both online and in person, pertaining to career, job and study abroad experiences available to all students.
Currently, the college has affinity organizations for students based on ethnic and religious identity. Some long-standing ones include the Black Student Union (BSU), the Asian American and Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA) and Hillel. Latinx club has not been active this semester despite there being a large number of Latinx students on campus this year.
It is evident that New College is becoming an increasingly diverse student body, though there remains the deeper issue of community building. Now that more minority students are here, the goal of providing a smooth transition, retaining them and ensuring they feel included and recognized on campus is critical for long-term success.