What sophomores say about the plan to make over freshman year

Students from low-income backgrounds may need more guidance in managing financial aid

Some college sophomores say that an initiative to improve the freshman year experience should have a greater focus on issues of finances and socioeconomic differences, Jacquie Lee reports for NPR Ed

To combat low retention rates, 44 state colleges and universities have joined forces for a three-year initiative called "Re-Imagining the First Year of College." The program, organized by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, will combine student advising with wide-ranging changes to schools' curriculum, administration, and faculty. The goal is create a better freshman year experience that is more likely to result in graduation.

But a number of sophomores at colleges and universities throughout the country want the program to better emphasize financial matters affecting students.  

Many students are lost when it comes to questions about financial aid. Garnell Purcell, a sophomore at Stevenson University, says students need more guidance on how much and what kind of financial aid to accept, as well as lessons on money management.

Marquez Cartharn, a sophomore at Missouri Southern State University, says it would be helpful to have someone walk students through complicated financial aid forms such as FAFSA. The University of Chicago has such a program in place, but it is run by students, not the school.

In addition, some students say they have had difficulty connecting not only with peers from different socioeconomic backgrounds, but also with professors who may not understand the struggles faced by low-income students. 

Selecting and administering financial aid forms

Students like Caden Williams, a freshman at the University of Oregon, wish that faculty and staff could undergo sensitivity training to best work with students from low-income backgrounds.

"These conversations have been happening, but they're getting bigger and bigger," says Nicole Sanchez, a sophomore at Yale University. "The student body is changing, and the administration needs to do better" (Lee, NPR Ed, 3/4). 

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