$22,729.00. This should be a number familiar to students across campus as we roll steadily through the second semester. This particular number is the 2008-2009 estimated cost of tuition for in-state first and second year students at the University. It’s a dauntingly high number for those struggling to pay for both credit hours and a roof over their heads. Unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon circumstance as colleges and universities across the country continue to raise the numbers on their price tags.

As anyone who needs to keep textbook costs and electricity bills on their mental list would know, a college degree in today’s world is becoming an increasingly difficult undertaking for the average middle-class student. Many students need to worry about issues other than classes. I know that I am among the lucky students attending the University with a relatively stable financial situation at home, but regrettably, this isn’t true for far too many other prospective and current college students. The prospect of earning a University degree is even more disheartening if feels out of reach at an early age.

Rewind to your middle school days. If you were anything like me (and probably plenty of others who won’t admit it), you were thinking about prospective colleges five or six years ahead of time. In retrospect, what felt like an extra load of stress to place on my 13-year-old shoulders now seems more like a luxury. I had assumed that college was in my future. It was an unquestioned undercurrent that affected every aspect of my academic life. Now, years later, I realize that this is far from the experience that many kids had growing up.

Without the assurance of further education waiting in the future, it’s easy for young minds to lose focus on school even if there may have been initial enthusiasm. At the University, a branch of the organization InnoWorks, of which I am a member, is one group on campus dedicated to sparking an interest for the sciences in financially disadvantaged middle school students.

According to Anudeep Mukkamala, Executive Director of the University’s InnoWorks chapter, InnoWorks strives to increase middle school students’ interest in attending college by making the opportunities provided by the University more accessible. InnoWorks tries to connect middle school students with University experiences by organizing visits to facilities like the Medical School and meetings with University faculty. The goal is to prompt middle school students to consider careers in math, science and engineering.

InnoWorks’s immediate goal is to start current middle school students down the path of scientific discovery, connecting them with opportunities available only at a major research university like the University of Michigan. In the long run, InnoWorks will become more involved in the process of making higher education a reality, especially for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

We’ve all jumped through the hoops and hurdles to get here, with or without help. As obtaining an education from a college or university increasingly becomes a luxury of the upper class, keep an eye out for InnoWorks as this summer approaches, and with it, the organization’s second annual science camp.

Emma List is an LSA sophomore.

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