Opinion

Letter to the Editor: MAP Grant Discussions Need to Be More Inclusive

Once the Quinlan School of Business makes its move across the street, the new Arrupe College will occupy the first three floors of Maguire Hall. Photo courtesy of Natalie Battaglia // Flickr

Last week, I attended a panel discussion sponsored by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges titled “Toward an Inclusive Campus Community.” Designed for trustees of private and public postsecondary institutions, the panel consisted of women and men of color who are leaders in higher education. Among the panelists were the interim president of the University of Missouri, the president of Morehouse College and a trustee at The Ohio State University.

The panelists candidly shared their perspectives on how diversity falls short.

“We admit students of color,” observed one panelist, “and we celebrate. Then what?”

“We become enraptured with our enrollment statistics,” said another, “but we don’t pay attention to the inclusion of our students.”

Trustees who attended the presentation were encouraged “to understand what inclusion is: when a student can say about his or her college, ‘I belong here.’”

At Arrupe, Loyola University Chicago’s newest college, my colleagues and I have focused on accompanying our students as they grow in their appreciation that they belong at a private, Jesuit, Catholic, liberal arts college. University of  Texas researcher David Yeager states that students are at the highest risk of dropping out of school if they feel like they don’t belong. In addition, Yeager cites research that indicates achieving a sense of belonging in higher education is especially challenging for first-generation students from low-income backgrounds.

Arrupe College would not exist if it was not a part of Loyola. Colleagues across campus have collaborated with us as we faced accreditation, created a brand, built the curriculum and hired faculty and staff. The results: We have retained 91 percent of our inaugural class so far, and more than 1,000 young women and men who are currently completing their senior year in Chicago’s public, Catholic and charter high schools have applied for the 180 seats in next year’s freshman class.

Arrupe students are enjoying success because they feel they belong at Loyola. One Arrupe student recently told a member of the U.S. Congress who was visiting our college, “I see myself as a Loyola student.” Last Saturday, as I walked through the Damen Student Center, I was delighted to bump into three Arrupe students studying for their introduction to statistics class together.

These students can belong because they are eligible for Pell and Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants. They can belong because much of Arrupe’s overhead in Maguire Hall at the Water Tower Campus — including utilities, technology support and security — is absorbed by the university. They would not otherwise experience a Jesuit education nor have the opportunity to attend a college at Loyola for two years and earn an associate degree at minimal costs.

The budget impasse in Springfield, despite the recent partial funding approval, has impacted more than 2,400 Loyola students, 110 of whom are Arrupe students eligible for MAP grants. Indeed, Arrupe students, like many fellow Loyola students, depend on MAP, Pell and other aid to complete their education. Why, then, do the reporters of this paper focus on Arrupe students and Arrupe College when the impasse affects so many Loyola students, as well as other Illinois college students? The uncertainty about MAP is an Illinois higher education problem, yet the focus is disproportionately placed on Arrupe, where 97 percent of our students are women and men of color.

If inclusion in higher education is defined as a student being able to say “I belong here” at a college or university, we at Arrupe are receiving a mixed message. The MAP problem is a major issue affecting Loyola and all other schools in Illinois. Please don’t single us out. Arrupe is part of, not separate from, the rest of Loyola University Chicago, where all our students “belong.”

The Rev. Steve Katsouros, S.J., is the dean and executive director of Arrupe College.

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