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Boston is a city overrun with institutions of higher education. These universities and colleges dictate the way of life in their small areas of the city. But how do these multi-million-dollar universities help students in the area? Not the thousands of college students who flock to Boston for a pricey higher education, but the junior high and high school students who live in the shadows of these great universities?
The colleges and universities of Boston are extremely diverse. They range from institutions such as Harvard and MIT, attracting attention from around the globe to the small area of Cambridge, Mass, to small colleges such as Simmons, a woman’s college, and Wentworth Institute of Technology, which tends to be primarily male. So do these universities, big and small, attempt to make higher education a likely possibility in the eyes of local city high school students whose families or financial status may be unfamiliar to the likes of major post secondary schools?
Boston College, located in Newton six miles from downtown Boston is ranked 38th in U.S. News and World Report among national universities. Costing roughly $37,000 a year, the price alone is enough to dismay thousands of perspective students from attending the college. BC is located in a residential area surrounded by Boston public schools such as Brighton High School and West Roxbury High, to name a few. Do these students, some of whom come from low –income families, stand a chance of attending Boston College?
In 1987 Boston College, in partnership with Boston public schools, started the College Bound program. Its mission is to help urban youth and their families aim to succeed in high school, higher education and beyond. Through mentoring, tutoring and exposure to a college environment, College Bound hopes to send Boston youth, who come from either Brighton or West Roxbury High, on to college. Eighty-five percent of college bound students will be first in their families to pursue a higher education.
The program appears organized and on the website it states that all of its students (142 to date) graduate from high school and are admitted to colleges. However, the program requires a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0 in high school to participate. This rules out many students who may also dream of attending college, but haven’t acquired the skills to do better in school.
A survey was conducted by Professor George Ladd, director of college bound, in order to assess Boston College’s contribution to the Boston public school system.
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Is BC really doing all it can to aid the youth of the community in which it has placed itself? Or is an elite school merely making an attempt to attract more elite students to its ranks? Compared to other colleges and universities of the area, it may not be certain.
Northeastern University is located in the Back Bay area of Boston and is ranked the No. 1 world leader in co-op education. Tuition is just over $35,000 per year. Northeastern, over the years, has pushed its borders out into the poorer residential community of Roxbury, making it well-known in the area. Many students attending the Boston Public School’s Fenway High School walk through the Northeastern campus each day to get to and from their school, stopping to grab a bite to eat at NU’s Curry Student Center. So how exactly are Northeastern’s academics aiding the community into which it has expanded?
In 1983, Dr. Joseph Warren created Northeastern University Academy, which, when endowed by the Balfour Foundation in 1989 became Balfour Academy. Balfour aims to integrate Boston public school students from low –income families (especially those of color) into the college system and help them get the drive to graduate high school and attend college. Students must be enrolled in the program by 7th or 8th grade and continue on through graduation from high school. They attend enrichment classes at Balfour during the summer as well as participate in field trips and sporting events. The upper-class students attend Northeastern college level courses to learn study skills. During the school year, Balfour students are tutored twice a week in subjects they feel they need help in by NU students.
Brenda Robles, a freshman at Northeastern University and a tutor at Balfour Academy described Balfour as “a program that helps inner city school children to do their homework by providing one-on-one tutoring.” When asked how she felt about the program in general, she said, “I think its purpose is a very positive one. The one student I tutor regularly is always motivated to learn.”
Although the academy tutoring begins after students have gone through a rigorous day of school, the general aura is one of excitement and willingness to learn. Most of the students have formed close –knit relationships with each other and especially with the director, Earl Stafford. All of them look at Northeastern and its students with admiring eyes.
“It is so nice here in the summer, I have been coming since 7th grade,” commented one student, Jessica Clark, a 9th grader at City on a Hill High School in Boston “We take classes during the day and go on field trips!”
All Boston public school students are eligible to enroll in the program regardless of their residence location and G.P.A. Northeastern offers Balfour Academy graduates five-year full-tuition scholarships to eight students who are accepted into the university. In the 1995-1996 academic year, Northeastern contributed nearly $5 million in grants and pro-bono services to Boston public schools, with $159,000 going towards Balfour Academy.
Balfour Academy is not lacking in outside financial assistance either. In 1995, Hewlett-Packard donated an entire computer lab to the academy. Perhaps the most notable contribution was made by the Balfour Foundation in the late ’80 s when the foundation, formed in memory of philanthropist Lloyd G. Balfour and a trustee of Fleet Bank, awarded the academy with a $1 million grant.
Balfour Academy has catered to more than 750 students from the Boston Public School system over the years. As of today more than 29 Balfour graduates are attending Northeastern, with the retention rate at 75%. However, the academy is a little known aspect of Northeastern University.
Tutoring and classes are held in Cahner’s Hall, a building far from the heart of NU’s campus, and when asked, most students on campus had no idea that Balfour Academy even existed. The program isn’t even easy to find on Northeastern’s website, it’s hidden in the community programs section of the Provost Office on www.neu.com. Even Boston public school websites failed to mention the program, although they had a large section about BC’s “College Bound” curriculum.
It seems the majority of students enrolled in the program hear about it from “word of mouth.”
“I found out about this program through my professor,” said one Balfour tutor. “and she works here.”
Many of the students had older siblings or family members that had gone through the program at some point. Balfour is almost a tradition passed down over the years through families.
So it is clear that major universities in Boston are making some efforts to aid the young students of their communities on their way to college. But are the smaller colleges in Boston doing their part? What about the technical schools, or the women’s colleges? How are they implementing their smaller budgets and lack of major resources to help their communities?
Simmons College is an all women’s college located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. Noted as one of the Best Colleges in US News and World Report, its costs per year are estimated at about $33,000.
Simmons hosts a program for Boston high school students that aspire to go on to college. The program, Simmons College Upward Bound Math/Science, is open to high school students that are either low –income or first-generation potential post secondary students. The high school students must have a G.P.A of 2.5 in order to participate.
Simmons allows students to receive tutoring and take classes during the year at UBMS. During the summer there is a six-week session where students live on campus at Simmons and take classes and attend field trips. Upward Bound is federally funded by a grant that allows for 50 participants, requiring that at least two-thirds of the students be low-income or first-generation college students. According to the website, a high percentage of students are admitted into and attend colleges and universities.
On Simmons “Upward Bound” website, the following student, Ludimira Goncalves, a UBMS participant and Madison Park High School student said, “At Upward Bound, I learned a lot of things that are helping me this year in my academic classes. Most of the things they are teaching us now at school, I learned in my Upward Bound classes this summer.”
Is Simmons College really helping the students of the Boston with this program as much as they could be? Once again, a minimum G.P.A. is required. While it makes sense that a work ethic is important to the program, if students need these college aid programs in order to help them get into college, a lot of them may not be getting the correct educational values at home and/or in school. Maybe if everyone was allowed to participate in the program more students would be able to bring out their true talents and succeed, instead of just allowing those who are already doing relatively well get the extra push they need to get into college.
Many universities and colleges in Boston have programs in their curriculum that donate time and money toward the education of Boston’s youth. But when compared with the amount of money they are taking in each year, and the amount of resources they have, these schools aren’t cutting it as far as giving back to the community they have almost taken over.
While these programs exist, hardly any students or staff knows about them. These colleges go through the trouble to have these programs, yet are only putting limited efforts and funs into keeping them aground. If a well known trustee of Fleet Bank donates sums of money to at least one of these programs, why is the program still so unknown? In the end, institutions of higher education view giving back to the community as something mandatory, and therefore the majority of the university only puts as much into it as they have to, which isn’t a lot.