Lesson of the Day: ‘I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.’

Lesson of the Day: ‘I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.’

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Featured Article: “I Was a Low-Income College Student. Classes Weren’t the Hard Part.

In this New York Times Magazine article, Anthony Abraham Jack explains why schools need to learn that when students come from poverty, they need more than financial aid to succeed. In this lesson, students learn about the challenges many low-income and first-generation college students face, then consider how well learning institutions address their students’ needs beyond academics.

Before you read the article, consider its title. What do you think the “hard part” you will read about is? Why do you think that?

If you know anyone who has gone to college, what have they told you about the experience? What, if anything, did they tell you was difficult about it?

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. Anthony Abraham Jack writes about a “gap” in the way we think about low-income students and college. What is this gap? What are at least three examples he uses to illustrate it?

2. He compares his college experience to having “dual citizenship.” Where did Mr. Jack feel he had this dual citizenship? Why?

3. What argument does Mr. Jack make in this article? What purpose does recounting stories from his own childhood and college years serve in supporting that argument?

4. What is the College Board’s new Environmental Context Dashboard, renamed Landscape? Put into your own words how Mr. Jack feels about it.

5. Mr. Jack argues that colleges and universities need to have a “deeply human touch” when it comes to students. How does he develop this point? How do many learning institutions fall short? What examples does he give of developments in the right direction?

1. You have read that Mr. Jack teaches at Harvard University. Read the course descriptions for the classes he taught this past academic year. Would you be interesting in taking one or the other? Explain.

Do you feel your own school is aware of the needs of all its students? How good a job do you think your school does in providing that “deeply human touch” that Mr. Jack discusses?

2. What do you think about the idea that high school may prepare students to get accepted to college, but not for what happens once they arrive on campus? How do you think students generally learn about college life before they become part of it?

Who is responsible for preparing students for the world of college, and all of its complexities — especially for students who will be first-generation college students (students who will be the first in their families to attend college)?