CSU leads peers in minority graduation rates

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May 112010

By Jim Sojourner

Collegian Special Report

Like the stars that illuminate the hunter Orion in the night sky, for Paul Thayer, a successful minority graduation program is like a constellation of bright, interconnected points of diversity light.

And with a graduation gap between minority and non-minority students that has consistently been one of the smallest among its peer universities, Thayer, CSU’s associate vice president for student affairs, said CSU is well on its way to building that constellation.

According to data from the Education Trust, a research organization dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap between minority and non-minority students, for five out of the six years between 2002 and 2007, which is the most up-to-date data available, CSU ranked in the top three universities among 12 other peer universities –– 11 in 2007 when Iowa State University was not included –– for having one of the smallest minority graduation gaps.

Since 2002, the data, based on six-year graduation cohorts, shows CSU’s success in keeping the graduation gap in the 7 to 8 percent range, compared with peer gaps that range from about 10 to 12 percent in the mid-ranked schools to more than 20 percent on the high end during the six-year period.

The notable exception to CSU’s success is a 16.3 percent gap anomaly in 2005, which placed CSU 10th among its peers and sounded alarm bells, Thayer said.

Despite extensive statistical analysis and interviews with numerous minority students and the campus diversity resources, CSU was never able to determine what caused the gap to widen suddenly for just one year. But because the number of non-minority students is so high, Thayer said, the non-minority graduation rates usually stay in the same range, while minority graduation rates, which are based on a much smaller population, fluctuate more easily.

Despite the one bad year, though, other data sources confirm CSU is succeeding in shrinking the graduation gap.

The latest data from the Integrated Postsecondary Data System website on the group of students that entered CSU in 2002 and graduated by 2008 shows CSU with an overall graduation rate of 63 percent.

For specific minority groups, graduation rates broke down like this:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native: 57 percent
  • Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 62 percent
  • Black or African American: 57 percent
  • Hispanic or Latino: 56 percent
  • White: 64 percent, and
  • Race/ethnicity unknown: 62 percent

According to CSU’s own internal research, for the 2009 group, 66 percent of non-minority students had graduated compared with 59 percent of non-minority students –– a gap of about 7 percent.

In 2007, CSU’s research shows that gap to be only 3.8 percent.

Those numbers and trends, Thayer said, are impressive considering the gap was more than 20 percent when he first arrived at CSU in 1979, and it reflects the large strides the university has made since the early 1980s.

But although Thayer said those numbers are cause for celebration, he said CSU has remained self-critical, even going so far as to create a brand new vice president for diversity position this semester intended to target diversity issues on campus, and said the university’s job doesn’t end until the gap is gone.

The problem though, is that eliminating that gap is easier said than done, and Thayer said no one simple solution exists.
“There just is no silver bullet,” Thayer said before pausing to reconsider.

“We’ve got the silver bullet, it’s just a really big and complicated one,” he said.

Larimer County’s roots lie embedded in its agricultural past, and its racially homogenous make-up today reflects that history, which is one reason CSU’s goal of creating a complete diversity constellation remains elusive and complicated.

Helping minority students to feel comfortable and to find academic success in a non-diverse community like Fort Collins requires effort and ingenuity, Thayer said.

One such solution, he said, is CSU’s ethnic-specific advocacy offices and cultural centers.

In contrast to many universities that lump each diverse group of students into a single minority student services initiative, Thayer said CSU’s diversity offices –– the Black/African American Cultural Center, the Asian/Pacific American Cultural Center, Native American Student Services and El Centro Student Services –– provide minority students the opportunity to plug into a familiar community that can meet their specific needs.

According to the BAACC website, the center provides a family-like support system for students, hosts cultural events like the annual Black History Month celebration and works to enhance the CSU community’s understanding of diverse culture.

Bruce Smith, director for the Black/African American Cultural Center, said the cultural centers play an important role helping minority students create diverse communities.

“I think the cultural centers are a vital piece of the creating diversity puzzle here on campus,” Smith said in an e-mail.

“We are certainly more than the ‘home away from home’ mantra that one frequently hears in regards to the centers. And we provide educational opportunities to all students and community members.”

Even more than minority-specific initiatives, Thayer said CSU needs to reach out to and involve minority students in CSU’s diverse initiatives and programs, which abound on campus.

For example:

The Key Communities are learning communities designed to help first and second year students transition into college through activities such as service-learning, leadership development and interdisciplinary class work.

Students as Leaders in Science involves science students in science-specific, hands-on leadership, community service and research initiatives.

These programs and others like them on campus, he said, unite minority students with groups that teach real-world skills and provide students with the important leadership and support networks they need to succeed.

But no matter how successful an individual program is, for CSU to accomplish its goal, Thayer said programs need to work together, and that task will fall on the vice president of diversity position, which Thayer said should act as a maestro –– a champion of diversity, as he called it –– directing each of the university’s diversity efforts to act in concert.

“Coordination, visibility and vision are all going to be enhanced,” he said.

The new position, Thayer said, indicates that CSU has its sights on the right issues and is committed to creating the culture of diversity –– in classrooms and out of classrooms, before CSU and at CSU –– necessary for a diversity constellation to shine.

“The thing about culture is everyone has to participate in it to really be a part of the culture,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s just an add-on.”

And with a growing network of faculty, staff, students and resource groups that Thayer said is dedicated to creating and maintaining a diverse campus culture, that constellation might be starting to peak through the night sky.

Editorials Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

GLBT: A largely unquantified community

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May 112010

By Alexandra Sieh

Collegian Special Report

Alexandra Kumor, a sophomore biology major holds a sign on the corner of College Avenue and Laurel Street on Saturday, March 6 in support of Freedom to Marry Day.

As he entered the room, the blank eyes of a scarecrow seemed to stare at Tommy Crews as it hung limply on the fence in the Edwards dorm room.

With the words of Matthew Shepard’s tragic story written on the walls of the room, the crude portrayal of Shepard’s last day stood as a powerful reminder of the consequences of discrimination.

And as an openly gay student, Crews was more affected than others, explaining the story of the crime to those in his group, remembering the day 11 years before when Shepard died in Fort Collins after being beaten to death for being gay.

Tommy Crews, seen here outside Summit Hall where he is a resident assistant, is openly gay and an outspoken member of the GLBT community at CSU. He is just one member of a large and highly underrepresented community that is not easily quantifiable.

A part of a new resident assistant training exercise, the room was just one of many on that day right before fall semester last year in what is called the Tunnel of Oppression, a project designed to teach incoming RAs about diversity and the harsh consequences of discrimination.

From those rooms centered on the GLBT community to those with stark images of the Holocaust, religious wars and terrorism, the scenes showed the worst side of discrimination and oppression, the hate crimes that have resulted from a lack of understanding.

For one day, Edwards Hall was transformed into a portrayal of prejudice, with “all of diversity in one building,” as Crews said, and blatant illustrations of hate toward each of those minorities and oppressed groups.

As he entered each GLBT-centered room, eyes would flash to Crews, his staff members searching for his reaction in hopes of understanding how they should act, hoping to mirror what he felt as a gay man.

“You looked around, and you could tell who was being affected the most because eyes would go to that person,” Crews said.

“You walked in, and it just hit you.”

And that is exactly what the project was meant to do.

Staring at images of battered women, those trapped in relationships that are abusive or dangerous, Crews said he remembered being overwhelmed by the scene.

“It really hit me hard because it made me realize how hard it was for women to get away from those situations,” he said.

As he read the statistics on the number of women who can’t escape those relationships, or those who do but return afterward, Crews realized how intense those situations could be.

“It affected me so much because it was so scary.”

At the end of the hall, with those rooms’ brutal images swirling in their minds, the RAs stood in the last room filled with bright lights and terms of love and acceptance, a hope for the future that can only come after those images of hate are erased.

Crews said the bright hopefulness in that room was one of the most difficult things in the tunnel to process.

“By the end of it, three-quarters of my staff were crying,” he said. “You just had to keep moving through, and it brought you down, further down to a greater level of understanding by the end.”

Despite the intensity, however, Crews said it was this kind of event that every student should be exposed to, especially in college.

“I definitely think it was necessary because I know it sucks to hear about this, and I know it’s depressing, but you need to hear about it anyway. You need to hear about it,” he said.

And with the creation of the new vice president of diversity position, many hope this conversation of diversity will only get louder and more inclusive.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Foula Dimopoulos, the director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center at CSU, about the new position.

“It has the potential to have some teeth,” she said, “because it’s such a high-ranking position. … I hope it … has the ability to make institutional change and advocate on an institutional level.”

And as the director of an organization for a group that is hard to quantify with numbers and statistics, one that is sometimes overlooked in discussions about diversity, she hopes the new position will offer “one single entry point that can coordinate many entry points for students, staff, faculty and community members around diverse identities and pursue it on campus.”

It is clear that changing the definition of diversity on campus is not a change that will happen overnight.

But with renewed focus on the issue of diversity, Dimopoulos and others hope there will be more progress in the future, not only in the obvious coordination of efforts, but in a change in CSU’s culture, accepting all pieces of diversity and understanding the different identities that people can have.

Defining self

A communications professor at CSU since 1997, Eric Aoki is a man with many different “diversities.”

Raised Catholic by a Buddhist father in a social class different from the one he works in now, Aoki understands the complexity of a person’s identity.

Japanese and Mexican in heritage, but also a “proud U.S. American,” he has spent his life talking about his diversity and the differences in how he perceives the world compared to others.

But his “visible identities” are not the only ones he identifies with. For Aoki, he must also negotiate how his invisible role, his “GLBT status and the orientation of being a gay man” factors into his diversity.

Unlike his racial ethnicity, his GLBT identity was one he could hide, and until Shepard’s death in 1998, it was one he hadn’t yet negotiated into his life at CSU.

But when Shepard was murdered, he found he was faced, as many other GLBT people were, with the responsibility to come out to those around him and begin their involvement in raising awareness for the GLBT community.

“That was one of the things that I hit the walls with in the classroom. I was encouraged my whole life to talk about all of my diversities,” he said. “So I hit that threshold being in my diversity classes and talking about everyone of those variables except the fact that I was gay because I hadn’t yet figured out how to integrate that into my diversity.”

But it has now become a piece of his persona that he preserves in the classroom and in his social life, continuing his work in “diversifying the diversity component,” he said.

For Aoki, it is important that each piece of a person’s diversity is represented, especially when some of those identities, like GLBT status, are invisible.

“I define diversity as a fact, not necessarily as good or bad,” he said.

As Dimopoulos defined it, “diversity is a culmination not only of our similarities but also the ways in which we are different.”

For Andy Stoll, the executive director of the Lambda Community Center in Fort Collins, it is that embracing of all identities that is important.

“I think that because it is an invisible characteristic of most people, it makes it easier for GLBT folks to be successful, but to be successful without keeping their full identity with them,” he said.

As a leader in Lambda, a center for those in the GLBT community in Fort Collins at large, Stoll has had the opportunity to work with students and Fort Collins residents alike to not only come out but to fully identify with their GLBT status.

Advocating for people to “navigate your own safety,” Stoll has found that Fort Collins, while limited in its diversity, has been a community where GLBT people can find that needed safety.

Careful to distinguish between tolerance and acceptance, Stoll said tolerance has grown, but acceptance is still on its way.
“We’re still not to the point where things are embraced or nurturing of diversity,” he said, “but yes, certainly, tolerance has grown.”

And that is a trend that also applies to CSU.

Moving toward acceptance

A “white tower” in Fort Collins, as Joe Howard describes, CSU isn’t known for its diversity.

An openly gay student on campus, Howard says diversity is something that “people bring to the table.”

Whether it is their racial identity, their gender or their sexual orientation, a person’s diversity is what they bring with them “from their own walks through life.”

And to Howard, CSU has done well in turning its attention to highlighting these diversities on campus.

But Aoki can remember a time at CSU when there wasn’t as much tolerance and acceptance for the GLBT community.

Around for what he described as the “infamous chalkings on the square,” he remembers walking across the Lory Student Center Plaza each morning for his cup of coffee and facing a myriad of “pejoratives” on the sidewalk, written in discrimination against the GLBT community.

As a communications teacher, Aoki saw those responsible using the excuse of free speech as a defense for their actions. But from an emotional standpoint, “one we often forget to think about,” in considering these actions, he said, he found it more difficult to face.

“It’s hard to be on a campus where day to day, week to week, you would see this negative projection of derogatory statements about GLBT individuals in the courtyard,” he said.

And while such blatant actions haven’t occurred in years since, he said he still notices the tampering of GLBT signs, pejorative statements in bathrooms, and other acts of “homophobic discourse” from the CSU community.

“It’s still around,” he said, but with the help of the GLBT Resource Center on campus as well as other organizations focused on awareness and activism, they have been much more scarce.

Since she began her job as director of the GLBT Resource Center nearly four years ago, Dimopoulos has seen improvement on campus toward understanding for the GLBT community.

“There’s been a push from the ground up to broaden campus’ definition of diversity, to broaden the horizon, to encompass not only sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, but also ability, veteran status, geography,” she said, which has helped to “highlight those ways in which people are diverse.”

And it is this push for understanding that most GLBT community members and allies hope will happen in the future.

As he stood on the stage of the Freedom to Marry Day rally in March, Blane Harding, an adviser in the College of Liberal Arts, spoke about the inequity behind the discrimination of GLBT people.

“Everyone is impacted when one group is denied their rights,” he said to a cheering crowd, and he hoped that, in the future, the “social justice” of the issue would be understood.

And he isn’t the only one who felt that way.

Acting against the status quo

For Mac Simon, social justice isn’t just an idea, it’s a personal mission.

A self-proclaimed “queer trans-man,” Simon has lived for the past year in transition, shifting out of his gender-born role as a woman into a lifestyle that suits him better, as a transgender male.

And for the past semester, he has been a member of Soulforce Equality Ride, a program that takes adult activists across the nation to Christian colleges and universities that have policies that discriminate against GLBT issues.

For his trip, Simon traveled to 16 universities throughout the semester with 24 other activists, all anxious and willing to speak out about GLBT rights and issues in hopes of “ending religious oppression through nonviolence and direct action.”

And for the senior social work major, this experience is one that has helped him share his story in hopes of helping other GLBT students to find comfort in their home at their university.

The goal is to engage students, faculty and administrators in a dialogue, Simon said, in order to create safe spaces for students to “be open about their identity without fearing getting kicked out of school.”

And on this trip, Simon saw firsthand how harmful discrimination, especially from religious organizations, can be for students.

“Being on Equality Ride right now, I have a pretty detailed perspective of just how damaging the hate speech that is being preached from pulpits worldwide is to GLBT people,” he said in an e-mail interview. “Many of my friends have tried to end their own life because of the lack of affirming messages they’re hearing from the church.”

Because of this and other prejudices, Simon is now dedicated to advocacy, speaking out on issues that he believes in, especially within the GLBT community.

“I’ve become really outspoken about a lot of causes that I’ve always felt passionate about but have never had the tools or the voice to speak out about them,” he said. “… I am not an issue. I am not a political cause. I am a human being who deserves equality on all fronts.”

For Dimopoulos and others, the future holds possibility for the GLBT community.

While she hopes for practical improvements to the office she runs, her hopes are that in the future, the office won’t exist, not from a lack of resources, but from a lack of necessity.

“That’s ultimately my goal,” she said, to have a level of acceptance that allows the office to focus on other things outside of awareness.

Howard said CSU is already much safer for GLBT students, “not necessarily because there are more queer people, but because there are a lot of allies.”

But there’s always more to do, Dimopoulos said.

“Diversity is rarely ever stagnant,” she said, and there will always be room for improvement.

Design Editor Alexandra Sieh can be reached at design@collegian.com.

CSU to welcome new diversity leader

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May 112010

By Matt Minich

Collegian Special Report

In this October 1969 CSU photo printed in “Democracy’s College In the Centennial State,” a book that explores the entire history of CSU, black students from the University of Wyoming protest racist practices by the Mormon Church in Moby Arena during halftime at CSU’s basketball game against Brigham Young University. It was CSU’s most poignant moment during the Civil Rights Movement. Some say CSU has taken great strides since, but most say it still has far to go.

Colorado has been diversifying for decades, but CSU has failed to keep pace.

Over the past decade, the state, along with the country as a whole, has looked less and less white, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The percentage of Colorado citizens who reported their race as “non-Hispanic white” decreased three and a half points between 2000 and 2008, dropping to 71 percent.

The percentage of non-white CSU undergraduate students has increased by just 1.8 points in those same years, just more than half the increase seen by the state as a whole.

To combat this growing disparity, CSU is following in the footsteps of its fellow Colorado schools and undergoing a complete overhaul of its approach to diversity.

In the last five years, CSU, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado system have all established new administrative positions commonly called chief diversity officers, or CDOs.

These officials have been fixtures in the corporate world for decades, but have appeared in Colorado’s higher education institutions only recently. At CSU, the new hire will work under the title of vice president of diversity.

The university’s intentions to restructure its diversity programs were first announced in fall 2009, shortly after the retirement of longtime Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Dana Hiatt.

Before Hiatt’s retirement, the OEOD served a dual purpose: it handled complaints about discrimination on campus and coordinated the university’s diversity efforts, which include outreach, recruitment and on-campus education.

“It’s my sense that the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity was functioning well under (Hiatt’s) leadership,” CSU President Tony Frank said in an e-mail to campus at the end of last semester. “But whenever someone leaves, an organization has to take stock of whether it is optimally positioned to deal with future challenges and opportunities.”

Rather than finding a replacement for Hiatt, university officials –– advised by a specially created “diversity task force” of faculty and administrators –– chose to split the office into two separate entities.

The Office of Equal Opportunity remains the administrative body responsible for addressing diversity-related complaints and ensuring that the university is in compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. In a move that officials say will align the office more closely with those entities it works with on a day-to-day basis, the OEO no longer reports directly to the president, but instead works under the university’s Division of Operation.

CSU is currently searching for a replacement director of the OEO, and candidates from all across the nation will come to CSU in the coming weeks to vie for the position. The director of the OEO will perform duties not unlike those of Hiatt: receiving, investigating and processing complaints of discrimination on the campus and ensuring compliance with state and federal laws.

The most notable change in the university’s diversity policies will be seen when a search committee chooses the university’s first-ever vice president of diversity.

The salary for the position has not yet been decided, and the job description is still in the works, but $150,000 of university funds have been set aside for the position’s creation, said Vice President of Student Services Blanche Hughes.

Defending the creation of a new administrative position in a time when state-funded higher education in Colorado is facing devastating budget cuts, Hughes clarified that the new position will be half-time for three years, at which point its standing in the university budget will be re-evaluated.

“My hope is that in three years the university will be begging us to make this a full-time position,” she said.

Despite the efforts to reduce costs incurred by the new position, Hughes and Frank both conceded that it would increase university spending.

“I think we have some major work ahead of us for our university to be the face of the society we exist to serve,” Frank said, “and progress in some areas will likely involve expenditures.”

“You can’t stop doing everything because you don’t have any money,” Hughes said. “You have to have priorities, ideas for what you want in the future.”

Not going it alone

Positions similar to that of the Vice President of Diversity are not at all uncommon; in fact, they are a standard entity in most organizations in both the private and public sectors, said Sallye McKee, the vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement for the CU system.

Selected for the position after a national search in 2007, McKee is paid a salary of $167,000 each year, which she said is typical of CDO positions nationwide.

As vice chancellor, McKee oversees a plethora of smaller diversity-focused programs, including the Department of Pre-College Services, which focuses on recruiting minority students from high schools and middle schools around the country. According to her job description, she also coordinates diversity-centered events on campus and has a voice in the chancellor’s cabinet.

Anita Fleming- Rife has recently been chosen as the CDO for the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. As a new hire, Fleming-Rife is in the position not unlike that of CSU’s new vice president. Because the contracts have not been finalized, the university is unsure of her exact salary, but her job description is in line with those of other CDOs.

“Not only will I be responsible for community building, I will work collaboratively to connect, integrate and create synergy among diverse programs and important community initiatives across the campus and beyond,” she said in an e-mail.

The face of the society the CDO serves

CSU consistently falls short when it comes to representing the diverse population of Colorado in its student body. In the fall of 2000, when more than a quarter of the state’s population was made up of minority citizens, only 11.1 percent of CSU students came from minority groups.

By 2008, this figure had risen to 12.9 percent, but still lagged far behind the 29 percent reported by the Census Bureau.
Now, in 2010, CSU’s diverse population still lags, at 13.6 percent of the entire student body.

“There’s always the problem of a rich pipeline,” McKee said, referring to a problem shared by all Colorado universities.

While a large portion of the Colorado population is made up of minorities, those minorities are less likely to graduate from high school than non-minorities and even less likely to go on to college.

In a 2007 analysis by the Colorado Department of Education, the high school graduation rates of most minority groups lagged behind those of whites.

Black, Hispanic and Native American students all had graduation rates that were at least 20 percentage points lower than those of whites, with less than two thirds of students from these groups graduating high school. Asian students were the only minority group that surpassed whites –– by just more than 1 percent.

Low graduation statistics reflect one of the main challenges for those hoping to create diverse campuses at schools like CSU, Hughes said. Currently, more than one third of Colorado high school students are minorities, but just more than one tenth of CSU students fall into this category.

Compared to other institutions in Colorado, CSU falls behind in terms of minority undergraduate enrollment. Adams State College, CSU-Pueblo and CU-Denver all had minority enrollment rates at or above 25 percent in 2007, according to information released by the Colorado Department of Higher Education. CSU, CU-Boulder and UNC all had percentages in the mid to low teens.

“It’s important to remember that diversity is a marathon, not a sprint,” McKee said.

As vice chancellor, she said she has begun to work on all aspects of minority access to universities but has used her positions to focus on minority enrollment and retention. She works closely with CU’s Dream program, which helps minority middle school and high school students graduate and get accepted to college.

“If we’re going to create an environment that reflects the nature of Colorado’s diverse population, we have to start reaching out,” she said.

News Editor Matt Minich can be reached at news@collegian.com.

A devastating illness, an untimely departure

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May 112010

By Johnny Hart

Collegian Special Report

Mandy Harvey embraces her fiancé, Greg Bland, near Harvey’s parents’ residence in Longmont. Harvey, who studied music at CSU in 2006 and 2007, developed a devastating illness during her time here that left her without her sense of hearing. Unable to complete her coursework and mired in a deep depression, she left. But since, she’s moved on to have a widely successful music career, producing an album. She and Bland will marry at the end of this month.

Less than three weeks from today, Mandy Harvey will stare down the aisle of the LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, looking at her soon-to-be husband Greg Bland. The wedding, set for May 29, will be just another chapter in Harvey’s life.

But just four years ago, the rising northern Colorado jazz vocalist stood looking at a darker, more confusing crossroads.
Then a CSU freshman, Harvey spent the first months of her spring semester slipping into silence until her hearing finally “pooped out” in February 2007.

The budding music education major had gone deaf, a fate she’d faced since her first diagnosis the previous September.
As her disability surfaced, Harvey was launched into one of CSU’s least visible minority groups: students with disabilities.

About 1,000 students on campus have a disability, but only about 500 have visited the offices of Resources for Disabled Students, said director Rose Kreston. The number of students, however, may be higher because students may not report their disabilities –– some don’t even know they have one.

Harvey had unwillingly become a part of one of CSU’s diverse communities. But her circumstance was unique itself, as her situation was “unprecedented” for the CSU music department that housed her, said former CSU professor and Harvey’s longtime voice teacher Cynthia Vaughn in an e-mail.

“Everyone took a wait-and-see approach until the end of the year, and as Mandy’s world became silent, she was advised by a somber faculty … that she would need to pursue a degree which was not heavily dependent on hearing skills,” Vaughn said.

Harvey’s situation is an extreme example of the harsh realities that disabled students –– indeed, students in all minority groups –– face.

With mix of personal devastation and a music curriculum that could not accommodate her loss of hearing, Harvey would leave CSU, her dreams of graduating with a music degree shattered.

Losing an uphill battle

For the final months of her freshman year at CSU, Harvey had slipped into a deep depression, often not leaving her Allison Hall dorm room for days at a time.

“When Mandy lost her hearing rapidly over her few months of college, she was devastated. Her hearing continued to deteriorate weekly, so that one week she could hear a professor well enough to keep up with the course and the next week she could not,” said Vaughn, who worked as a voice professor at CSU during Harvey’s time on campus.

Vaughn said Harvey had been “admitted to a highly selective program” at CSU with only 15 freshman vocal students “in a degree that is based in large part on hearing.”

Harvey, who calls herself a “firm believer in God” and who never swears, cursed to the heavens.

“The first time I ever cursed in my life was during my funk at CSU,” she said. “One day I was just so pissed off, I just was like ‘F you, God.’”

Once her hearing completely went, Harvey’s parents wanted to bring her home. But she stayed, determined to finish the semester, which Harvey would struggle with mightily.

“The last couple months of school I didn’t really do that much. I kind of got really depressed and locked myself in my room for two weeks,” she said.

Only making her problems worse, she said she’d neither remembered nor heard of any other deaf vocalists, especially ones going to school for vocal performance or education.

Issues with her classes arose earlier in the semester, when she returned from winter break to a music-intensive course load.

In music theory, Harvey said she could not do dictation –– the process of hearing a played note, and, without looking at the instrument, recognizing its value.

“I couldn’t see how dictation and listening to the piano was so huge (compared to) most things I could have done with theory class,” she said. “And it wasn’t able to be catered in any way.”

Without a different accommodation, Harvey said she would fail the course as dictation accounted for 40 percent of the class grade.

Too, Harvey said she was not able to take another course, music history, because she could not listen to and recognize pieces composed by different artists in different eras of music.

She later added, “Again, I think there is a lot of music history that I could have learned without any sound at all.”

Because of her situation, both Harvey and Vaughn said professors in the department formed two camps: those who expected Harvey to be OK and do the work load without issue, and those who questioned Harvey being in the department and advised her to drop her courses.

Harvey said she became frustrated with both sides because neither was helping her address her loss of hearing.

“Since there was no precedent for a music student becoming deaf, some professors under-reacted (expecting her to keep up with all lectures and assignments) while others overreacted (advising her to drop all of her music classes),” Vaughn said. “Both responses were extreme, but Mandy herself was figuring out what her own limits were on a day-to-day basis.”

Harvey said: “When you have a situation where neither party really understands how to deal with the situation, it’s not good, and it seems horribly unfair to both sides. I don’t want to say something that would make it seem like I hated (the music department) because they just didn’t understand what to do.”

Despite one professor advocating to alter the music theory course without dictation as Harvey was becoming acclimated to her condition, learning American Sign Language, Harvey was dropped from the class, which she said she happened after a conversation and without her consent.

“You get a system that’s so used for so many years, and you have a person that doesn’t fit the mold, and they can’t figure out how to shove you into that mold instead of trying to reshape,” Harvey said.

And though she said she wouldn’t have been in the right “emotional place” to continue with music education, Harvey would have taken on a larger homework load or some other compromise to pass the course.

“I never signed any papers to end that class,” Harvey said. “I was overwhelmed, I was seriously depressed and I pretty much gave up with that class. So it ended up being the best move to not be there.”

The Collegian was not able to determine whether a teacher dropped Harvey from the course because class records are protected by federal rules for student privacy rights, but department chair Todd Queen said teachers don’t have that ability.

“A teacher cannot drop a student from a class. The student only has that ability,” Queen said in a phone interview. “Mandy would have had to drop that class on her own. We can give them a grade, but teachers cannot drop students from a class.”

Queen, who was a voice teacher during Harvey’s senior year, said Harvey’s situation never escalated beyond her and her professors.

“(Harvey’s) situation never went to the departmental level, so I’m not sure that the department really has anything official to say on the matter. We certainly are proud of the accomplishments that Mandy has achieved and wish her much success,” Queen said in an e-mail.

Queen and his colleagues were more involved in “helping Mandy on an individual level.”

RDS director Kreston said no university department lawfully has to make accommodations for students who are disabled if they determine the student to “unqualified” to do the coursework.

“It’s possible that some people think that she can’t teach (music),” Kreston said.

Harvey agreed.

“I would want do something that I could feel confident in doing 100 percent of my job,” Harvey said. “For education in music, to be fair to (students), you need to be able to hear. You need to be able to correct them. You need to be on top of your game. And I can’t do that for them.”

Harvey said that though she was partly upset that she couldn’t finish her schoolwork in four years, part of her is happy because that’s not where she was supposed to be.

“Part of (me) was like, ‘I paid for that education, and you didn’t get it.’ The other part of me was like, ‘What would I have expected them to do, give me my hearing back?’” Harvey said.

She added, “If (my situation) would have happened at any other school, it would have been exactly the same. Nobody knew what to do. So it’s not that I was pissed off at the people (involved), I was pissed off at the whole thing …”

Trying to keep the disabled going

CSU’s Office of Equal Opportunity is charged with “implementing, monitoring and evaluating programs, activities and procedures that support” access in the university’s “educational, scholarly and outreach activities,” according to the office’s website.

Roselyn Cutler, the interim director of the OEO, said the university is far and away above its peers in those areas and its resources for students.

“I think we do very well in accommodating students. I think we’ve always been ahead of the curve in accommodation,” Cutler said, adding, “We can usually find an appropriate and reasonable accommodation (for students).”

Along with OEO, CSU offers assistance for disabled students through RDS, which collaborates “with students, instructors, staff, and community members to create useable, equitable, inclusive and sustainable learning environments,” and the Assistive Technology Resource Center, which “ensures equal access to technology and electronic information for Colorado State University students and employees with disabilities,” according to their websites.

“It blows me away, the amount of resources we have (at CSU),” Cutler said.

In her 30 years on campus, Kreston only remembers one case in which a student took the university to court over access and resources, and she said the university won.

Cutler, who said about one complaint a month from disabled students comes through OEO, said most grievances filed by students or professors to her office are a result of a break in communication.

“Oftentimes the problem is a lack of understanding of the amount of resources and what we are able to do,” Cutler said.
Harvey, who did not file a grievance, did utilize the university’s interpreters but found a communication breakdown.

Sometimes, she said, interpreters would have a hard time keeping up with both the lecture and students asking questions, and there was a “huge gap” between “horrible” interpreters and “great” interpreters. Too, Harvey felt mocked by her fellow students because she needed an interpreter.

“I want something that caters to me so I don’t feel stupid when I’m sitting in classes,” Harvey said, later adding, “I think the whole thing is flawed.”

In Harvey’s music courses, interpreters were especially unable to help communicate topics to her.

Vaughn said, “In Mandy’s case this assistance was of limited help because she had not yet learned ASL, and lecture note-takers were not enough for her to keep up in highly specialized classes such as music theory.”

According to the book “Raising and Educating a Deaf Child,” graduation rates for deaf students at four-year universities is about 30 percent, compared to 70 percent among their hearing peers.

Harvey’s fiancé Greg Bland, who is also deaf, said this is because of “communication breakdowns.”

Bland used the example of a friend learning the word “hubris” in his humanities course. When the interpreter heard the word “hubris,” he signed “pride” –– the word’s definition. Because American Sign Language communicates in concepts, rather than long phrases with filler words like English, come test time Bland’s friend could not answer the question because it asked for the Greek word for “pride,” “hubris.”

“There’s a lot of information pieces that are dropped out,” Harvey said. “… The interpreter doesn’t use English vocab. They use ASL language. It has its own grammar, its own language.”

Like Harvey, Bland felt a break in communication when he attended CU-Boulder. After flunking out of his first go around at CU, Bland came back and “challenged the system” by asking for everything to be written out, everything spoken to be in print.

“(Getting everything in text is) something that, when I go back to finish my degree … I’m going to demand,” Harvey said, “because if everybody who has their hearing is benefitting from all the information and I’m not, I shouldn’t be paying the same tuition.”

Harvey and Bland also suggested professors could create two lecture plans when needed, one for hearing students and one for hearing impaired students, along with adding more office hours, but both said they thought these changes may not be feasible.

In the future Harvey hopes to return to a university, though she doesn’t believe any programs are ready to accept a deaf vocalist yet. But for now she’s working on her wedding –– and her music.

Her debut vocal jazz album, “Smile,” dropped last fall, and she frequently plays Jay’s Bistro in Old Town. With two more albums in the making, Harvey’s well on her way to creating five albums before she turns 30.

But she takes life day by day, practicing her speech every morning and focusing on remembering what she once could hear.

“I could wake up tomorrow and not remember how to do everything that I do now. Once I can’t remember, it’s gone,” she said. “So I just want to do as much I can now, and then when I have grandkids I can be like, ‘This is what I did. That’s me. Wasn’t I awesome? Hell, yeah!’”

Managing Editor Johnny Hart can be reached at news@collegian.com.

A pressing question: What is diversity?

 Diversity  Comments Off on A pressing question: What is diversity?
May 112010

By Aaron Hedge

Collegian Special Report

Chigozie Okocha filters through paperwork at his work-study job in the International Student Scholar Services last week at the Office of International Programs. As the leader of the United Men of Color, Okocha says part of his mission for the group is to redefine diversity.

Ethnic studies majors bustled through the hallway on the third floor of the southeast end of Aylesworth Hall Wednesday, as Eric Ishiwata hurried into a study room and asked a woman to forward him an e-mail from student government saying the new leaders were doing away with the office of diversity and outreach.

The e-mail, sent by vice president-elect for the Associated Students of CSU, Jennifer Babos, says the incoming administration will discontinue the office due to budget restraints.

Ishiwata’s request for the e-mail, which he later sent to the Collegian, immediately followed a conversation in his office at the end of the hallway with a student, Chigozie Okocha, about their desires for a comprehensive revamp in the way CSU recruits and retains its minority students.

Talking with Okocha, Ishiwata said CSU must work “… to become as diverse and integrated as all of their photos show CSU. … Make efforts to make CSU look the way you’re advertising it, and I’ll call it good.”

The professor, who teaches race and ethnicity policy courses, said the department floor acts as a safe haven for a select population of ethnic minority students and their sympathizers.

“Look down the hall here,” he said. “Our hall is like a refugee center.”

There are many places on campus –– various advocacy offices and residence halls dedicated to accommodating diverse students –– where CSU’s minority populations can find solace.

Dylan Gallacher, left, talks to Poudre High School students Kyle Rutherford, Kelsey Romero and Ace Knaus about applying to college through a student-led initiative called the DREAM Project, which aims to convince underrepresented students to apply to college. On this day last month, Gallacher and his team convinced four students to fill out applications.

But with CSU looking at creating an administrative position charged with integrating diversity efforts at the university and boosting the health of its minority population, Ishiwata said those places on campus might not be needed.

“Ultimately, we’re gonna be able to develop a culture of mutual respect at CSU where you don’t have these refugee centers,” he said.

Numerous campus community members and diversity experts interviewed for this report including Ishiwata, however, say it’s not a simple road to that goal.

Simply in terms of race

Okocha came to CSU in the wake of the academic tenure of his sister, who created Africans United, and, in that shadow, felt compelled to champion diversity issues on campus.

“Just how driven she was kind of instilled in me a hard work ethic, and I’ve always wanted to just surpass her in any way I could,” he said in an interview.

So when he came to CSU three years ago to pursue his degree in political science, Okocha immediately got involved in the campus’s diversity programming, eventually becoming the president of the United Men of Color and establishing his role as a leader who wishes to expand the definition of diversity past the concept of race.

“People always want to default to racial diversity,” he said, “and … you cannot talk about racial issues without talking about gender issues and talking about sexuality and talking about disability. These are underrepresented issues that for the most part aren’t being addressed at all. At all.”

On the surface, the organization, especially seen solely through the lens of its name, might be viewed as one that aims to unite men of color on CSU’s campus. But Okocha’s mission as this year’s president is to establish a sense of community between men of all races on campus, including the white ones, who he sees as just as diverse as those of any minority.

He wants to make them “better men,” he says –– illustrating that desire by deriding profanity in the meetings and sparking discussions about the men’s respective roles in CSU’s culture –– and reintroduce them, and the CSU community, to an often overlooked definition of diversity.

The problem is one that many on campus say should have been addressed long ago.

A decade ago, CSU’s entire student body was an even 11 percent culturally diverse, according to university demographic reports. Since then, it has increased by 2.6 percent to 13.6 percent, a figure Blane Harding, an adviser in the College of Liberal Arts, says starkly exemplifies CSU’s continued racial homogeneity.

“To me, that’s nothing,” Harding said. “That’s absolutely nothing.”

So in light of CSU President Tony Frank’s latest administrative brainchild, a separation of the Diversity branch of the Office of Equal Opportunity after former director of that office Dana Hiatt retired last semester, Harding and a number of other community members say he should be commended.

The position will align the university with many of its peers nationally, including the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, which is looking to add a full-time staff of five to the very same office, Harding said.

But the initiative comes with a host of questions about the way CSU markets itself as a diverse community: is it honest? Does it do a good job in retaining minority students? At CSU, does the term “diversity” describe rigid boundaries between races, genders, classes and levels of physical abilities? Or is it more complex?

Four university employees are currently vying for the VP position. The person who fills it will oversee every area of CSU’s diversity operations. But the full force of the university’s staff that works with minority populations lies with seemingly countless offices and organizations, from top-level administration to the minutest student-led think tank.

A grassroots effort

Dylan Gallacher, a junior sociology major at CSU, made his way through the thick crowds in the hallways of Poudre High School during a Thursday lunch break last month.

He stopped at the groups that had gathered in the corners and against the sepia-tone walls to tell their members why they should apply to CSU, and if not, another university or college.

“We got four applications,” he said, as the students started to file back in to their classrooms for the next period.

This brought his initiative –– called the DREAM Project, which is a spinoff of a program started at the University of Washington that aims to promote a higher education to underrepresented high schools –– to between 12 and 15 signed applications.

Looking a bit downtrodden by the small number of applications, which a group of CSU students, who call themselves “The DREAM Team,” have been gathering since the beginning of the semester, Gallacher chatted with Isabel Thacker, one of the school’s counselors about the progress.

The WU program is said to be incredibly successful, but it had a full five years before it was fully implemented, whereas the one at CSU only had the semester.

“It’s just hard with staff turnover and teachers leaving every year to get this name built for your program,” Gallacher said in an interview before the recruiting effort.

Later, sitting in her office decorated by service awards and family photos, Thacker said that despite Gallacher’s disappointment, the widespread enthusiasm for the project among the school’s administrators will be justified.

Recruiting programs sometimes take decades to take strong root in an academic community, Thacker said.

The need for CSU students to work with local minority high school students is obvious, she said. And that need is exemplified in numbers reported by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems: Colorado has by far the largest college achievement gap between white students and minority students at 24.6 percent.

Part of the problem stems from education cuts across the board. Schools’ budgets grow thinner by the month.

As a result of recent funding shortfalls, Thacker alone advises more than 300 high school students, a burden Gallacher and the DREAM Team, which is comprised of a number of other students, are trying to alleviate.

“The counselors are just swamped, so busy beyond belief,” Gallacher said.

Making it worse, in the current economic circumstances, the state is anticipated to have one of the country’s fastest increases in jobs that require college degrees in the next few years, according to experts.

“These statistics are alarming,” said Paul Thayer, the associate vice president for student affairs at CSU, during a meeting with representatives of the university’s Alliance high schools. “There’s no way to argue that. They are alarming.”

Thayer’s presentation to the schools showed that Hispanic and black students in Colorado have a far lower high school graduation rate than that of whites and Asians. It came before an announcement by several state higher education officials, including Mary Ontiveros, the vice president for enrollment and access at CSU, that they will conduct an audit of the Alliance schools in which they will ask students and teachers about the health of their interactions.

The audit follows one conducted in New Zealand by Tom Cavanaugh, a professor at Walden University who did his dissertation at CSU, about the gap in academic achievement in underrepresented populations, that showed native students have a lower success rate.

Efforts following the New Zealand survey resulted in higher levels of academic achievement for minority high school students there, and Cavanaugh said local high school educators are optimistic about the effort having the same effect in Colorado.

It is these initiatives Gallacher says is so important to establish continuity of action between the administration and the student body.

Realizing the American dream through an education

Thacker remembers looking out a porthole –– the diameter of which was as long as her 9-year-old body was tall –– in a cargo ship that carried her, her mother and her siblings across the Gulf of Mexico in 1963.

The ship’s cargo consisted of prisoners of war from the Bay of Pigs invasion and the final commerce items between the U.S. and Cuba after Fidel Castro’s regime took over in that country.

Behind her was her father’s death as an influential figure in Castro’s administration who was murdered for his rebellion. Ahead was a life in the U.S. where she was certain to lose her identity, denouncing Cuba’s communist proclivities, as well as her language, culture and family, most of whom died without her ever seeing them again.

After she graduated high school in Kansas with a 1.94 grade point average, she went to work for a meat packing plant, never expecting to obtain a college degree.

“I thought I was stupid,” she said in an interview. “… It was tough. It was really tough. I was a teenager while learning to speak English, dealing with incredible cultural conflict with my mom.”

But after more than a decade of that lifestyle, she decided to attend Kansas Teacher’s School, now Emporia State University, and eventually transferred to CSU where she graduated with honors and a bachelor’s degree in social work and went on to obtain her master’s in education.

Since then, she has been an integral figure in the education of minority students, in the Fort Collins area, including at CSU, where she has done work for El Centro and other Hispanic organizations on campus.

But her academic success would have been impossible without a helping hand, and that, she said, is where students like Gallacher come in for many students at PHS.

Now, plagued by state education budget cuts resulting in thin counseling staffs and dwindling funds for scholarships for minorities, high school employees like Thacker are forced to find creative ways to get their underrepresented students into college.

A systemic problem

Thacker was criticized by local media in 2007, during the heat of the national illegal immigration debate, for finding a resident status policy loophole at the University of New Mexico that allowed children of illegal immigrants full scholarships, when they would have had to pay full out-of-state tuition at CSU –– the university right down the street.

The coverage deeply troubled Thacker, who still tears up when she thinks about it.

“It was all over the news and all over the radio. … I was getting calls at home,” she said, her voice cracking. “It’s incredible how hurtful trying to do something good can be.”

UNM eventually determined the scholarship legal, and though Thacker was asked to resign, she was able to keep her job, and she goes on working with the hundreds of students at PHS who need assistance applying for college.

“I know for me, personally, it was nice when somebody sat next to me and helped me through the process,” Thacker said.

And while most students don’t have the problem of lacking documentation, Okocha says legal and socioeconomic systems that disable minority students from obtaining a college degree are what need to be examined.

“Colleges have gone to the high schools and said, ‘Come to college.’ But then there’s certain situations that wouldn’t allow a student of color … to come to college,” he said. “I still think we’re not addressing the root question: Why aren’t students able to come to CSU?”

University officials expect the new VP of diversity position to eliminate any redundancies in its diversity missions and work with existing organizations to bring their visions to fruition.

Whether similar positions at other universities do any good at increasing diverse populations is debatable, but many remain hopeful that it will help.

Harding says CSU must make itself more available to underrepresented students –– through scholarships, accurate advertising and racial fostering programs –– because that mission is essential to its identity.

Until now, CSU’s road to diversity has only lent itself to trial and error.

“Especially since we’re the land grant institution of the state, we should be the choice of (diverse) students … because that’s the whole purpose of a land grant institution,” he said. “But we’re not.”

Projects Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

CSU programs aim at diverse, low-income students

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May 112010

By David Martinez

Collegian Special Report

Ted Glynn and Angus Macfarlane, two New Zealand natives, flew more than 7,000 miles to lay two books on the concrete floor of a community center in Rocky Ford, a dusty farm town far removed from the wild, majestic scenery of their island nation.

They said nothing as they placed the books –– a pair of gifts that address low graduation rates of underrepresented high school students, a big problem in New Zealand and in the U.S. –– in front of two dozen CSU and high school representatives.

The gift was meant as a hand off of knowledge from their culture to Colorado’s. And as Paul Thayer, CSU’s associate vice president of student affairs, thanked them as he picked the books up off the floor, he made a symbolic promise for CSU to improve the quality of Colorado education.

Glynn and MacFarlane made the trek on April 30 to introduce a New Zealand teacher-auditing program that, if implemented in Colorado, is expected to cut the state’s substantial differences between white and minority graduation rates.

“This program will affect the way your schools do school,” said Tom Cavanagh, a representative from Walden University who earned his doctorate from CSU and helped conduct the New Zealand project. “And it will change dramatically.”

Cavanagh, Glynn and Macfarlane spoke to the group of Colorado high school educators about the Culture of Care, a program that would focus on teacher-student relationships. Auditors would interview students at underrepresented high schools in an attempt to find and fix communication and discipline problems between students and teachers.

“The focus of the project had to be what’s going on in the classroom,” Glynn said.

Colorado could use the help.

According to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Colorado has the largest education gap of any state in the country, with a 24.6 percent difference in degree gap between white students and minority students.

That number dwarfs the national average of 12.43 percent and pales in comparison to Maine, which has the lowest national difference of 1.4 percent.

The Alliance Partnership

CSU hopes to use the Culture of Care in its Alliance Partnership schools, which are 10 low-income, high diversity high schools spread throughout Colorado.

The university has partnered with the schools for three years in an effort to keep high schools students interested in education and moving on past their high school diplomas.

“We’re not just working with a high school counselor, we’re working with the community,” said Mary Ontiveros, the associate vice president of enrollment and access, in an interview.

Schools in this Alliance Partnership, which is part of CSU’s Access Center, sign an agreement with the university that legally commits both sides to helping each other within the program.

Ontiveros, who helped create the Alliance Partnership, said that the program was also meant to reduce the achievement gap between white students and Latino/Hispanic students.

For schools in the partnership, which is entirely CSU-sponsored, Ontiveros holds annual college information sessions at the high schools that are open to students, family and faculty.

“It’s kind of a system focus,” said Patricia Vigil, director of early outreach and retention initiatives. “Bring your middle school kids, bring your kindergarteners.”

Both Ontiveros and Vigil said the program’s inclusion of the entire high school community is key to the success of the program. The more parents and faculty know about applying for and going to college, the more support students get to further their educations.

Ontiveros said many families either can’t afford college or don’t trust it.

“If they fail, who’s gonna pay their debt?” Ontiveros said. “If they succeed, they’ll never come back.”

Gayle Hinrichs, the assistant principal of Sierra High School in Colorado Springs, one of the 10 Alliance Schools, said it’s crucial for students and families to feel comfortable with leaving home.

“Sometimes they’ve never even been to Denver,” Hinrichs said.

The Alliance Program also offers a $2,500-per-year scholarship for high school students who choose to attend CSU, an incentive that catches the attention of most of the students, Hinrichs said. The scholarship also extends to students who start at a community college and transfer to CSU.

In addition, CSU provides the Alliance schools with several chances for students and parents to tour the campus in an effort to give students a picture of what college life is like. In some instances, groups will meet with a student panel to ask them questions about campus life and participate in a mock college lecture. The panel addresses many of the common concerns respective groups have with CSU’s campus, such as how to thrive on a predominantly white campus.

“If visually they can see themselves here, they start to say, ‘Yeah, I could do this,’” Ontiveros said.

The university also provides the high schools with Naviance, a student interest-tracking program that Oscar Felix, the executive director of CSU’s Access Center, says the “rich” high school students and staff use. He said the software tracks the colleges that students show an interest in as well as the status of their college applications.

In addition to helping students find information on the colleges they show an interest in, it also helps counselors pay attention to how far along the application process their students are and where to send college transcripts.

For the first two years of use, CSU paid for each of these schools to carry Naviance –– about an $8,000 total cost. But next academic year it will require the high schools to pay for half of the program, a cost some of the high schools worry that they won’t be able to pay.

While Ontiveros was unclear on what would happen to the schools should they not be able to pay the extra fee, about $400, she was both understanding in the schools’ financial situations and adamant that they find a solution.

Although teachers and students in these high school communities have said the program is a success, the number of students the program has gotten to come to CSU amounts to less than what would fit in a 100 level class; it recruited 58 students from the 10 high schools in 2009 and has recruited fewer than 200 since its inception.

But the university has benefited from this program with a higher number of diverse and low-income graduates attending CSU in each of the program’s three years. They have also helped CSU minorities slowly increase from 14 percent to 15.7 percent of the undergraduate class in the past five years, according to CSU’s office of institutional research.

A growing trend

Ontiveros said recruiting diverse students at CSU has been “historically difficult.”

But Felix said efforts to attract diversity have “taken off” since 2000.

He said many of CSU’s newer programs “focus on a population that typically wouldn’t go to college if not for some intervention.”

“There’s a lot of talent that just doesn’t get used,” he said.

While CSU has created a new position that spearheads diversity efforts, its access center and enrollment office have created scholarships, summer programs and communications streams that allow Colorado’s low-income and diverse students afford and pursue a college degree.

Access to Higher Ed

Although the university has increased its efforts in the past decade, it has used federal efforts to allow most low-income and diverse students to come here since 1965 –– the year the Pell Grant took effect.

The Pell Grant is a need-based money grant that takes into account personal student income, family income, the family’s household size and the number of family members who attend post-secondary schools, according to the grant’s website.

The site also says the amount of money a student gets depends on the student’s expected family contribution, the cost of attendance and the student’s enrollment status.

Through this grant, more diverse and low-income students had gotten a chance to attend universities that were out of their price range, such as CSU. From there, the university implemented the Educational Talent Search program that provides workshops to middle and high school students. The workshops include academic, financial and career counseling and assistance in completing college applications.

Felix says the program provides a key service that students need but would have a difficult time finding otherwise.
“How do you teach a sixth grader about FAFSA?” Felix said, when talking about the program’s uses.

Sean Jaster, a counselor at the Access Center, said the Center now offers four additional federally funded programs, Upward Bound, Reachout, the Bridge Program and the Educational Opportunity Center. These programs help spark student interests in higher education.

While the Federal Government gave CSU’s Access Center $41.6 million for its programs last year, Felix said it had not raised its funds in six years. With economic inflation, the Access Center actually receives less money than it did when the funds were set six years ago.

“We really need it,” said Felix, when asked whether the department needed an increase in federal funding. “Otherwise we’ll be in bad shape.”

CSU lobbied for an increase in funds in Washington in March, but the department will not know if it receives a fund increase until between October and the beginning of December. This year, the Access Center didn’t know its federal funding situation until January.

Felix said the lack of funding increases would likely cause the Center to cut back on services and department materials. He isn’t looking at serving more students or expanding its programs, as he doesn’t expect an increase in funds this year.
“But I have to hope,” he said.

News Editor David Martinez can be reached at news@collegian.com.