"There are opportunities out there to help students from these [disadvantaged] backgrounds. So there's no excuse for colleges to not be making these efforts." — Bob Mundy, director of admissions, University of Notre Dame
From the moment I stumbled upon the website for Notre Dame’s 2019 Ethics Week, I knew I wanted to attend. The annual Mendoza College of Business program had chosen economic inequality (a passionate interest of mine) as its theme this year, and the schedule for the week included lectures on CEO pay and labor issues. With the magazine’s spring deadline looming, I knew I had to choose carefully which one event I had time to attend, and I settled on the one closest to home: a panel discussion on economic inequality on college campuses, particularly here at Notre Dame.
I had just come off a lively discussion with law student Cameasha Turner about how Notre Dame could better attract and retain students from diverse backgrounds, so I was eager to hear how the panelists — Mundy, plus director of financial aid, Mary Nucciarone, and former director of student enrichment, Marc Burdell ’87 — had to say on this similar topic.
I must admit I was impressed. Mundy walked through a number of initiatives Notre Dame has either launched or joined in on with the intent of attracting first-generation and low-income students. One in particular earned murmurs of respect within the room: a partnership with Questbridge, a nonprofit connecting low-income high school students with elite universities. The program will enroll nearly 100 students at Notre Dame next year at little to no cost to them. Nucciarone detailed the challenges on the financial-aid side of things, and Burdell the Office of Student Engagement’s efforts. The latter, he explained, helps students of lower income levels afford the parts of college that aren’t covered by aid packages, like formalwear for SYRs or winter coats to survive a South Bend January.
From the panel, it was clear that the powers that be at Notre Dame and its peer institutions are taking seriously the “no-excuses” mandate that Mundy describes. But I still left the event brimming with questions — including why a talk on such an important subject, at a not-especially-busy time in the semester, attracted a fairly tiny crowd consisting mostly of bored-looking undergrads.
In talking with our editor, Kerry Temple ’74, after the panel, we agreed that the question of economic inequality on campus deserves more exploration. Stay tuned to the magazine’s print edition to see us tackle this difficult subject in more depth sometime later this year.
Sarah Cahalan is an associate editor of this magazine.