Social class differences on a college campus

Trying to create programs and services for the diverse group of individuals that attend an institution can be a difficult task. Need based financial aid or other assistance programs help students enroll in college when otherwise they might not have been able to afford it. And, as I am learning firsthand this summer, students have varying levels of access, needs, and abilities. To be a better student affairs professional I need to improve my social class consciousness.

My NODA internship in orientation introduced me to a few issues that I did not experience as an undergraduate college student or at my UGA graduate assistantship. Not all students have cell phones, easy access to personal transportation, or parents with personal experience attending college.

UNCG offers an orientation program for students called SOAR (Spartan Orientation Advising and Registration). The orientation fee is charged on the student’s tuition and fee bill.¬†We also offer an optional parent and family program that runs alongside the student program. The parent and family program is not charged on the tuition and fee bill and costs $70 to attend and $80 for day of SOAR registration. It is an additional $25 for a parent or family member to stay on campus in Spring Garden apartments.

Most students (~80%) are able to have a guest attend with them, but unfortunately some parent/family members can not attend because they can not take vacation time off work or because they can not afford the registration fee.

Transportation to summer orientation can also pose an issue for some students. If parents/family members do not own a car, they must find public or other transportation to the orientation program. Train and bus schedules do not always line up with orientation schedules; this might mean a student has to arrive a day early or late for the program.

Lastly, not all students have cell phones. I will be the first to admit that I am quick to make assumptions or want to create programs for students that include cell phones usage (or even social media usage via smart phone). This summer has been a great opportunity for me to realize that while Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, etc. might benefit a program, it doesn’t include all students. I will still advocate for increased usage of social media by faculty and staff, but because of my recent experiences I am more aware of working with students without the same level of technology access as others. We are so used to being able to contact everyone when we need them or even expect students to have frequent access to email and text, are we prepared when that is not an option?

What experiences have improved your social class consciousness? Do you find yourself working with students that do not own a cell phone as I did last week?

One thought on “Social class differences on a college campus

  1. As a related comment if not slightly off point, I have similar professional challenges due to generational differences rather than social class. Typically it is the older client who does not use email or online access. They may own a cell phone but keep it turned off. In some cases, there is no voice mail option. Scanning documents is rare in these situations. Communication is vital to the client experience. How does a company build a service model that spans generations and / or social class? As technology follows Moore’s Law, will this be a factorially escalating problem?

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