The U’s only conferences for recruiting high school students of color aren’t funded by the administration, which, coupled with racial stereotypes, comes between the students and opportunity.
Four student groups within the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs host and fund conferences designed specifically to help black, Asian-American, Pacific Islander and Chicano and Latino high school students demystify the college-entrance process at the U.
However, funding the conferences is a major concern for all the student groups, which must raise their own funding.
Members of the Black Student Union asked for donations from businesses in the area. The Pacific Islander Students Association, the BSU and Asian-American Student Association students wrote bills to request funding for their conferences from the Associated Students of the University of Utah Assembly.
Tricia Sugiyama, AASA program coordinator, said their main funding comes from ASUU.
“The conference is intended to introduce African-American students to the opportunities higher education affords, then to reduce the barrier and fears of going to college,” said Betty Sawyer, BSU coordinator.
Last year’s PISA conference drew between 400 and 600 students. PISA accepts between 30 and 40 students from local high schools that have higher populations of Pacific Islanders, said David Kinikini, the Pacific Islanders Student Association program coordinator.
The BSU conference drew 260 students, mostly from the Salt Lake, Davis and Granite school districts. The AASA conference had more than 100 students in attendance.
Because the No Child Left Behind Act has increased assessment requirements for high school students, the U student groups have had to push harder to get students to attend the conference.
“Schools are reluctant to let students out for diversity events,” Sugiyama said. She said the conference attendance can be crucial for some students of color and that studies show the more a student visits a campus, the more he or she is likely to attend.
Kinikini said for Senior Day, a similar event the five student groups hosted for the first time this spring, U students help the high school students orient themselves on campus.
“If their parents never went to college, there is a good chance that they’ve never been on a college campus,” and it’s important for them to get a feel for it, he said.
On top of that, students and staff said racial stereotypes deter high school students of color from higher education.
“Most of the students have replied on surveys that “high school counselors don’t pay attention unless I’m an athlete,'” Kinikini said.
Sawyer said many black students go through high school thinking that their only ticket to college is athletics.
“African-American students think if they are an athlete then they cannot be academic,” she said. “They think the only way they can get to school is with an athletic scholarship, not an academic scholarship.”
Sugiyama said stereotypes limit many Asian-American students’ access to higher education.
“Many people think there are a lot of Asians in college,” Sugiyama said. “That’s a part of the model minority myth.”
Sawyer and Kinikini said high school counselors often don’t inform many of the high school students of color about relevant scholarships and the process of applying for financial aid.
Kinikini said one high school student from Hunter High School and his parent recently visited him about applying for college and the father was unsure whether his son’s 3.8 GPA was high enough to get him into school. The student didn’t even know he had high enough grades to receive scholarships, Kinikini said.
He said some high school counselors are responsible for advising nearly 100 students.
“Our high school counselors are bombarded,” he said. “There is not a good chance they will get the correct info.”
The U conferences step in to pick up the slack. The conferences to be offered in March have workshops on financial aid and scholarship applications, student engagement opportunities on campus such as sorority and fraternity pledging and culture-specific activities.
The conferences provide high school students with contact information for the CESA so prospective students and their parents can receive advice throughout the admissions and attendance process, said Kinikini.