One of the knocks against academics and professors, especially those who study social inequality issues, is that we don’t do anything with our knowledge. That is, we conduct research and learn about the different ways people are treated unfairly and unjustly in American society, but passing on this knowledge to students in the courses we teach, we don’t use our knowledge to try to change the situation.
Thankfully, there are exceptions to these criticisms. As the Los Angeles Times reports, many professors at Santa Ana College in California are literally putting their money where their mouths are by donating some of their salary to a scholarship fund that assists low-income students attend their classes:
Chemistry professor Jeff McMillan is sick of seeing otherwise capable students drop his courses because it costs too much to go to school. So much so that he is opening his wallet.
McMillan and about a dozen other faculty and staff members at Santa Ana College have started a scholarship fund that they hope will make it easier for low-income students to afford their classes.Starting this fall, each will fund a student’s course fees for a year — about $600 for a full-time schedule.
Professors say the donation comes with the satisfaction of knowing the student their money is helping. . . . The Opportunity Scholarship will be awarded to students with extreme financial need. Instructors will recommend students who have great potential but are struggling to pay for school.
Each student will be paired with one of the faculty sponsors, who will serve as an informal mentor. . . . Most likely to benefit will be students who are not citizens and thus are not eligible for federal student aid or a state program that waives fees for low-income community college students.
I hope that they serve as an inspiration for other professors at colleges around the country, but at the same time, assistance programs like this are ultimately the responsibility of colleges and universities themselves, especially elite private colleges that have the endowment and resources to give low-income students the chance at a better life through a college degree.
Although there’s still a long way to go, thankfully there seems to be a trend among such elite colleges out there that they need to use their vast wealth and resources to help all members of society get a college education, not just the wealthy and privileged.
At any rate, kudos to the faculty at Santa Ana College who not only talk the talk, but they aren’t afraid to walk the walk. Or as another cliche goes, “Well done is better than well said.”