Is Fairfield University’s Bridgeport College An Admission To Address Equity?

Many fine Jesuits have emerged from Fairfield University. But how many as a measure from the urban poor?

Fairfield U. plans to open next year Fairfield Bellarmine, a conversion of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s St. Ambrose School on Boston Avenue, “A new academic initiative offering a two-year associate’s degree, serving students from the Bridgeport region.”

The New York Times columnist Ron Lieber writes that “The class of first-year students that entered in 2020 had the lowest percentage of Pell Grant recipients of any college in the United States–7.5 percent–according to the most recent federal data.”

Pell Grants are federal government subsidies awarded to students based on financial needs.

The Fairfield U/Diocese partnership settled on the former St. Ambrose location after a noisy confrontation from North End residents who charged the Jewett Avenue site was not a density fit for the neighborhood.

A nearby St. Ambrose property owner John Ricci, the city’s former Public Facilities chief, has made a similar claim in court.

Still, Fairfield U. is pressing forward with its conversion plans for a liberal arts program: “In the Jesuit tradition of serving urban communities and opening access to education for all, Bellarmine will offer strong professional preparation and enhanced academic support to low-income and first-generation students.”

Excerpt from The Times story:

Next year, the school plans to open Fairfield Bellarmine, in nearby Bridgeport. There, up to 100 “traditionally underrepresented” students will pursue two-year degrees in a program grounded in the liberal arts. Fairfield has a new full-tuition scholarship program at the main campus, too. This is a start.

Fairfield’s biggest challenge may be financial. It could spend more to recruit higher numbers of lower-income students and then discount tuition enough for the education to be affordable.

That could require budget cuts elsewhere, though, say from the dining hall or dorm remodeling. If you do that enough, higher-income families who already subsidize tuition for lower-income students may never even apply.

Make no mistake, this is a business, and the choices Fairfield faces are similar to ones that hundreds of other schools must make. College-shopping families and students could prioritize diversity over new buildings and amenities if they wanted to, but schools worry that most of them–most of us–do not and never will.

Full story here.


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