The Office of Admissions has recently decided to expand Discover Swarthmore, an all-expenses-paid overnight program for high-achieving high school seniors to visit campus. In previous years, Discover Swarthmore was held for only one weekend in the fall semester, but two will take place during Fall 2015: one from September 17-19 and the other from October 29-31. Combined with the recent uptick in the percentage of students at the college who are receiving financial aid (up to 57% this year), the Phoenix applauds the College’s continuing efforts to promote socioeconomic diversity and equal access to a Swarthmore education.
Expanding the Discover Swarthmore program will allow the college to double its exposure to students of lower socioeconomic status who would otherwise be unable to afford a plane ticket or hotel room required to visit an elite institution far away from home. Several media outlets, including the New York Times and NPR, have published pieces discussing how many high achieving, low-income students simply do not apply to elite institutions that they have a high likelihood of being admitted to because they think the cost is too high, they simply don’t know how the application process works, or the problem that DiscoSwat tries to address: they can’t afford to visit and decide if the school is right for them. By breaking down the barriers these students would otherwise face in the pursuit of a high-quality college education, the college is taking the first of many much-needed steps towards greater equality in higher education and deconstructing the system of privilege that elite institutions often help to reinforce.
Despite these moves towards promoting greater socioeconomic diversity on campus, the college could be doing even more to make Swarthmore a more accessible place. Instead of designating just two weekends out of the entire academic year as opportunities for socioeconomically diverse students to come to campus, the entire admissions process should be geared towards ensuring the greatest number of low-income, high-achieving students as possible apply, get admitted, and succeed at Swarthmore. Alternatively, to ensure that students who visit during DiscoSwat and eventually come to Swarthmore as students actually end up being successful while they are here, the College should be doing more to make day-to-day life at Swarthmore as affordable as possible. The cash-free campus is a great example of the good Swarthmore does in this regard, but regularly requiring students to purchase textbooks valued at hundreds of dollars each semester is ludicrous.
While we applaud Swarthmore’s initiative towards promoting greater access to a Swarthmore education by adding another weekend of Discover Swarthmore, the college still has a lot of work to do in order to make campus a truly equitable place.