Opinion: The Role of Resources in Higher Education
Education has shaped the path for the elevation of social class, yet there still exist barriers within existing institutions. Barriers of access to resources between prestigious universities and those who are not considered prestigious universities. Prestigious universities are universities that have been labeled competitive, and have a low acceptance rate. As a first-generation college student who comes from a low income background, the goal was a university but the pathway to the university was not something I was familiar with.
During my time in high school I had a low GPA of 3.6 and lacked exposure to higher education. I knew I wanted my future to include higher education, and I got accepted into Meredith College my senior year. However, I did not understand that the institution I attended would have affected the outcome and resources students receive. Many BIPOC first-generation students have the mindset that predominantly white institutions offer the same resources and amenities. The reality is that the school assets can vary drastically and can change your experience of the university.
One difference I’ve noticed between larger and smaller institutions are the diversity resources. The purpose of diversity programs is to create equitable spaces for BIPOC communities. For example, UNC has the Carolina Latinx Center, and Duke has the Mary Lou William Center for Black Culture. NC State carries a Multicultural l Student Affairs that focuses on academic retention and success for multicultural students. Meredith has diversity resources such as a DEI Coordinator, but this is something new to Meredith. Other institutions have worked to uplift a diverse community in their institutions. Being a first-generation student makes it difficult to not only know where to find these resources, but also knowing that they exist. This limits our opportunity to advocate for ourselves when experiencing microaggression in a classroom or on campus.
In addition to a supportive community, undergraduate resources play a significant role in the post-graduate opportunities students have. Small universities that hold undergraduate research programs do not offer a catalog of grants and established opportunities for students. Meredith offers a collaborative undergraduate research program between a professor and students, yet it does have a catalog of existing research or research outside of the institutions. Schools like Duke offer resources to many majors on possible or similar ongoing research or research outside of the institution. This catalog supports students on their pathway to success. Allowing students access to information on ongoing research projects means that many students do not need to look for resources on their own. At Meredith, the process is individualized, and other students that have the same major will not be able to access it unless it is communicated.
I plan on attending graduate school for sociology and have started to look at some program applications. Many of these programs require some form of research experience. I am not saying that there are no resources available here at Meredith, but there is no established catalog of undergraduate research being accessible to students or undergraduate research programs that are offered outside of Meredith’s institution.
Established diversity centers and undergraduate research programs have an impact on undergraduate experience for students. These resources can help eliminate barriers between larger and smaller universities. These resources benefit students and create trust between students and institutions that we are equally given the same available resources rather than create skepticism against the institution.
These larger universities have already created a successful pathway for a BIPOC future applicant while for the rest of us we need to hunt down our next research opportunity and become advocates to uplift the social inequities against marginalized communities on campus.
By Camila Cardoso-Herrera, Contributing Writer