by Russell Contreras
Institutions of higher
education often find the dollars to help some students who normally wouldn't be able to attend college.
When government assistance isn't enough, these institutions regularly give scholarships to keep these people afloat.
However, a plethora of these reward monies are thrown around in massive packages as colleges attempt to lure "the best" athletes in the country -- many times
leaving out those who can't necessarily throw a touchdown pass, those who did not break records with SAT scores or those who do not have the dough to attend anything else but a community college, but would probably be more valuable to the school once graduation day came.
Fortunately, the University of Houston has a program that enhances its student body for those who fall in the latter group. That is none other than the Urban Experience Program, which targets
selected minority students from various urban high schools following their graduation.
The program not only provides funds and financial aid, but also supplies students with tutors and a strict set of rules where a high GPA must be maintained.
The Center for Mexican American Studies, African American Studies, and the Office of the UH President can hold their heads up high and brag to the rest of the higher education world of this success.
But there is one major problem -- funding is running out.
Reallocation to this program seemed like a definite shoo-in last year, but recent UH System budget cuts, administrative pay raises and a couple of other items have put this valuable program at risk.
Most of the students in the program are between their sophomore and junior years. Many are first-generation immigrants who are the first in their families to go to college. They come from schools where the inequalities in the educational system are so bluntly obvious that you and I would wonder how anyone could learn anything.
If this university is committed to its mission statement, committed to the enhancement of further diversifying its student body, committed to its community outreach, then the Office of the President should have no problem with a reallocation.
If not for this program, UH wouldn't have the student artist who decorated the Mexican American Studies lounge with her beautiful designs, or the students who organized conferences for next semester, or the promising array of future medical doctors, or the many who attended a school they thought they would never step foot near. They are the ones who not only deserve the opportunity to be able to finish school, but a thanks for illustrating what UH commitment and money can do.
These students can't do everything. But, if their funding were on the line, and they were told to go out on the field and play football for UH, they'd do it.
And probably win.
Contreras is a senior English and history major.