I was approached by a reporter on The Daily to comment on Sarah Lawrence College’s rising tuition I’m taking a quick break from poetry today to post my response below.
I’d love to hear what you think!
I graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2007. I’m fairly certain SLC was one of the most expensive schools (if not THE most expensive) in the nation that year as well. It’s a familiar battle for SLC. Although I fear the even heftier price tag for tuition in 2012 will deem the school even more inaccessible for prospective students, particularly students from low-income, immigrant communities and communities of color, I fully stand behind my SLC education. I come from a middle-class immigrant family from Hayward in the Bay Area, and was able to attend SLC through scholarship. Fundraising for scholarships is a big deal at SLC, and I hope that those efforts are continued for future students.
At SLC, I met with my professors who were esteemed writers, scholars and artists on a biweekly basis to develop independent work in conjunction with the class. This individualized aspect of study at SLC is also called “conference,” which is built into the curriculum. I’m currently a graduate student at a large university, and in many undergraduate classrooms, students use clickers in order to participate and “speak” in class. There was never an issue of NOT being heard at SLC where most of the classes are small round table seminars of (at the most) 15 students. I felt challenged by my professors and peers to think critically, to speak thoughtfully and honestly and to create my own projects based on the class’ subject. I don’t think that this happens often in the university setting.
There are no prerequisites for classes at SLC, and you get to interview your professor before the semester starts. Students choose their classes based on their own interests. Editor Hamilton Nolan at Gawker scoffed at the student-designed curriculum, comparing this fundamental aspect of SLC’s pedgogy to an “appealingly obscure microbrew.” Nolan argues that students should pay less tuition since “kids work cheap.” Since SLC students design their own curriculum, I believe they are more engaged with their education than the average college student. In fact, SLC professors are working harder to stay in dialogue with each of their students about general course work and students’ conference projects.
Education at SLC didn’t stop once students left the classroom. I participated in APICAD (Asian Pacific Islander Coalition for Action and Diversity) on campus and fought for Diaspora Studies on campus with many of my peers. Many of us, inspired by our classes, went on to become housing rights organizers, writers, small business owners, artists. Many of us went on to fully engage and work with the multitude of communities where we live and belong. In my own experience, I learned that community and education are inextricable. I learned this through my interactions with my peers, my professors, AND the staff at SLC. Where else can you knock on the Facilities Office, or the Financial Aid Office, and chat with the directors and administrators who work there right away?