May 23, 2018

Increased Diversity, More Access, Inclusion Are Ongoing PU Goals

By Donald Gilpin

An institution steeped in tradition and still often viewed as a bastion of privilege, wealth, and exclusivity, Princeton University is working hard to transform itself to create an environment on campus that is more diverse and inclusive.

Undergraduate admissions and financial aid policies have been one facet of the push towards greater socioeconomic diversity at Princeton, and 28 percent of first year students this year are first generation or low-income (FLI) students.  About 60 percent of all students at Princeton receive financial aid. 

Earlier this month the University announced that it had offered admission to 13 transfer students as part of its renewed transfer program aimed at encouraging applicants from low-income, military, or community college backgrounds.

The University received 1,429 applications for the transfer program, reinstated this year after a 27-year hiatus, as part of the board of trustees’ strategic planning framework, which identified key goals and priorities.

“Experience at other universities shows that transfer programs can provide a vehicle to attract students with diverse backgrounds and experiences, such as qualified military veterans and students from low-income backgrounds, including some who might begin their careers at community colleges,” the strategic planning framework report states.

Of the transfer students receiving offers of admission, eight have served or are currently serving on active duty in the military.  Eight self-identified as people of color, and several of the admitted students have attended community colleges.

“We are especially pleased with the quality of the admitted transfer students,” said Dean of Admission Janet Lavin Rapelye.  “The committee was impressed with their intellectual curiosity, leadership, maturity, and diverse perspectives, which they will bring to our campus.”

Princeton’s financial aid program comes in the form of grants, which do not need to be repaid.  The average grant is $50,600 per year.  No student is required to take out loans, and students can therefore graduate debt-free.  Students who apply for aid with family incomes up to $160,000 typically pay no tuition.

In a 60 Minutes program last month about Princeton and other colleges focusing on access and success for FLI students, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber commented on the need for greater diversity and inclusion in contemporary society.  “I think there’s a recognition that in this country right now some of the divisions that we need to heal are around economic class and we need to be paying attention to that,” he said.

“We have to be a place where people can come together from lots of different backgrounds,” Eisgruber continued.  “This commitment we have to be a real leader on socioeconomic diversity is a big part of taking the next step for us and making the right kind of difference in the world.”

The University’s efforts towards diversity, wider access, and success over the past few years have involved a number of offices across campus, including increased outreach to students from low-income backgrounds, improved abilities to recognize talented applicants from all backgrounds, and programs at the University that provide FLI students with mentorship, academic enrichment, leadership opportunities, and scholarly community.

Among the programs designed to help FLI students adapt to the academic and social demands of Princeton and to seek out opportunities are the Freshman Scholars Institute (FSI), a seven-week summer program; the Scholars Institute Fellows Program, which builds on the FSI in subsequent semesters; and the Princeton Hidden Minority Council, which describes its mission as “to advocate for the first generation and low-income voices that aren’t being heard.”