Critics of the University’s race-conscious admissions policies say some minorities are accepted from urban high schools that do not adequately prepare them for the University’s academic programs. But classes offered by the Comprehensive Studies Program help such students catch up to classmates from more rigorous high schools.
For 27 years, CSP has sponsored Summer Bridge classes tailored primarily for minority students in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Many Summer Bridge participants were significantly aided by the college’s consideration of race in admissions, CSP Director William Collins said.
Some of these students “may have an uneven academic background” compared to other admitted students, he said.
Students attend classes during the summer before their freshman year, taking courses in English and mathematics, as well as a seminar designed to help them adjust to the University’s academic and social environment, Collins said.
“We certainly give students a good foundation,” he said. “Students have an excellent springboard into the University.”
Collins said students who completed the Summer Bridge classes generally felt the program “made them more confident about meeting the academic demands” of the University. Most of the students who complete the program are successful in their freshman year and go on to graduate, he added.
Yet the program also upholds the University’s academic reputation by ensuring that students who cannot handle the University’s academic rigors disenroll. Collins said if a student fails one of the Summer Bridge courses, “then we have a chat with them and tell them they should go to school somewhere else.”
Although many Summer Bridge students received a significant boost from the University’s use of race as an admissions factor, Collins said he hopes CSP will be able to continue providing specialized classes and counseling if the Supreme Court rules the policies unconstitutional.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced it will hear oral arguments April 1for the two lawsuits that challenge its admissions policies in LSA and the Law School.
Engineering sophomore Brandelyn Heath said some of her friends took Summer Bridge classes, and they felt the program familiarized them with the University but did not completely close the gap between them and other students.
Through CSP, students can also take specialized sections of introductory courses in chemistry, English, mathematics and accounting during the fall or winter terms. The program also provides nearly 2,000 participating students – not all of whom are minorities – with tutoring and career counseling.
Comprehensive studies Prof. Fran Zorn said many of the students who attend her classes often felt in high school that teachers and counselors did not care about their academic potential.
“If someone doesn’t have the background and is willing to learn, I’m willing to work with them,” she said. “We at CSP believe in their potential and try to develop that.”
Zorn said certain CSP seminars also focus on professional preparation and encourage students to decide which career they would enjoy pursuing. “(Students) go on into medical school, pharmacy, public health … I feel I’ve had real success with people,” she said.
After enrolling in the CSP program and graduating from the University, a student Zorn knew went on to attend the University of Indiana Law School.