Easy Access

Three programs at the university are helping to keep college within reach for all.

By Denise Erdahl Ploof

Limited educational opportunities severely constrain the options of many Tacoma families. Recent statistics indicate that nearly 17 percent of Tacoma's residents live below the poverty line. And while non-whites account for only 16 percent of the Pierce County population, they make up one third of the disadvantaged population.

Puget Sound has developed a number of programs to help provide broader access for minority students, not only to attend Puget Sound, but to other colleges and universities as well. The access programs include the Access to College Initiative and 24 Hours of College, which are academic year-long programs, and Academic Challenge, a summer math and science enrichment program. The three access programs "provide a seamless pathway to engage students in building a vision for college and beyond," says Kim Bobby, director of access programs at Puget Sound.

The Access to College Initiative is a partnership with the Tacoma Public Schools that aligns courses public school students take with college entrance requirements. It provides academic support through tutoring and workshops that include role models, information and contacts to help students stay on track with college requirements. The Initiative brings academically promising 7th-through-12th-grade students closer to the college experience. It has six components: Access to College Day, tutoring, mentoring, career shadowing, classroom visits, and academic/leadership recognition.

The Office of Admission works with current Puget Sound students in the Asian Pacific American Student Union, Community for Hispanic Awareness, and the Black Student Union to host visiting ethnic minority students from high schools in western Washington. While participating in 24 Hours of College, student visitors attend in University activities, spend a night in a residence hall and experience a full day of college classes.

Now in its 10th year, the university's Academic Challenge Program is a four-week summer day program for students in grades 7-12 that focuses on coursework in mathematics and writing to assist students with the development of their academic preparation for college.

"It is our desire to see many of them admitted and enrolled at Puget Sound to serve as mentors for the next generation's college students of color. The ultimate success of the access programs will be achieved when the ethnic and cultural landscape of local business and educational institutions is reflective of the diversity in our communities in all levels of the enterprise," says Bobby.