In cooperation with the Office of Financial Aid, the First Generation Low Income (FGLI) Task Force has worked to move up the financial aid application deadline to Jan. 15. The Task Force will continue to address challenges faced by FGLI students, including solving issues surrounding dining and making health insurance more affordable.
The idea for a FGLI Task Force arose at a FGLI social at the end of the Spring 2017 semester. About halfway through the event, a few students stepped forward with the intent to share some of the issues that they were experiencing at the University. The conversation eventually grew heated and emotional, a turn administrators hadn’t anticipated.
“A lot of the people didn’t have an outlet to release what they were experiencing,” FGLI Task Force Board Member Melisa Olgun ’20 said. “I think a lot of these discussions were being had between students and between faculty members but hadn’t found its way to administrators.”
After the students were done voicing their concerns, Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley stepped forward and proposed the idea of a task force, comprised of both students and staff, to address FGLI student issues. The first meeting of the Task Force was held on July 20, 2017. Over the past semester, the FGLI Task Force worked closely with the Office of Financial Aid, opening up a line of communication to discuss difficulties with the financial aid deadline.
“We were finding out our financial aid way too late…so it was difficult, by the time the deadline came, to pay tuition,” Olgun said. “Since it’s in May, it was very hard to receive documents from home on campus. That was something we discussed, and for the most part, from my experience, it was just better to be home.”
One of the other issues the FGLI Task Force is currently working on solving is the lack of on-campus dining during school breaks. The FGLI Task Force is working on a pilot program for spring break, where at least one dining facility would be kept open during the break so students who stayed on campus would have a place to eat. The program’s implementation will be determined in a few weeks. For Whaley, this program is only a small piece in the puzzle in rethinking how dining on campus works.
“As we were talking about this particular project, I said, ‘Should we do a rethink of our dining plan is structured?’” Whaley explained. “So that’s a longer-term project.”
Another recent issue that the FGLI Task Force has been focusing on is making sure student health insurance is affordable. According to Olgun, the last time they brought up the issue, they ran calculations on how much it would cost the University to provide free insurance. The numbers were higher than they’d anticipated. Now, Olgun says they have to work with the trustees to see if subsidized insurance is a possibility.
“It would be pretty difficult to subsidize it,” Olgun said. “But if we make a push it would be possible.”
Though the Task Force has been instrumental in implementing several new programs and policies on campus, both students and administrators see its work as an ongoing process with no end in sight. FGLI Task Force member Jennifer Gagné ’19 emphasized the need to work closely and openly with the administration in order to make tangible changes on campus.
“A lot of people might be hesitant to work with admin, which is weird to me because I do see how it’s useful to work with admin, even if there’s not progress for a while they have it on their radar,” Gagné said.
For Olgun, continued involvement from low-income and first-generation students is key in keeping momentum going in the organization. She also thinks that broader cultural awareness on campus about low-income and first-generation issues helps to destigmatize their problems.
For more information about the First Generation Low Income Task Force visit their webpage at www.wesleyan.edu/fgli. To get involved with the organization, contact Melisa Olgun at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katie Livingston can be reached at email@example.com.