University targets academic prep program at minority students

The University of Toledo spends up to $200,000 each year on a program designed to prepare minority students to succeed academically, regardless of their grades and test scores.

The Summer Bridge program enables students to “receive enhanced instructions in Math and English, and a Social Science course, with a particular emphasis on cultures often ignored in traditional courses, i.e., African American and Hispanic/Latino.”

According to The Toledo Blade, all incoming minority students are notified of the program, and 30 participants are selected from among those who apply.

The Bridge program is a portion of the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Program (MESP), which is designed to give “preference to historically underrepresented students” through several programs at UT.

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The Bridge program’s costs, which reportedly average between $175,000 and $200,000, are completely funded by UT, covering six credit hours of tuition, housing, meals, and books for the six-week summer program, as well as enrollment in the “Living Learning Community” (LLC) campus housing for the fall and spring semesters.

The LLC program is designed for students in the Bridge program to continue to “live in the same residence hall with the community of scholars established during the summer and continue to receive enhanced instruction and advising.”

The program does not specifically target students based on academic performance, however.

“We try to get students with a variety of GPAs, test scores, and people outside Ohio,” program manager Malaika Bell told the Blade. “So our goal is to prepare these students not only academically but culturally.”

Indeed, one of this year’s participants graduated high school with a 4.1 GPA, and even received a scholarship, but said she is grateful for the Bridge program because it helped her “get used to the college dorms, making friends, and being away from family.”

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The Bridge program was founded in 2015 by the current vice president of diversity and inclusion, Willie McKether, and two others. McKether’s salary was increased from $122,883.60 to $175,000 in 2016 when he was promoted to VP, shortly after he established the Bridge Program during his time as an associate professor of anthropology, according to the Blade.

The UT Office of Multicultural Student Services’ mission statement states that its goal is “to create a campus environment for African American, Asian American, Latino American, and Native American students that is conducive to learning by providing programs and services that meet the needs of these students.”

UT spokesperson Christine Billau assured Campus Reform that “the program is open to all students,” but failed to clarify how a program designed to give “preference to historically underrepresented students” is made available to other students.

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