December 4, 2019

EDITORIAL: Mandatory Life Skills Class: A Socioeconomic Equalizer

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In a recent interview with The Sun, President Martha E. Pollack discussed how increasing socioeconomic diversity at the University was a top priority for her. This is an admirable goal which Pollack says goes beyond active recruitment and includes supporting students while they make their way through Cornell. The Sun previously reported on various initiatives led by the University and students to promote socioeconomic diversity including addressing food insecurity and cost of textbooks. Pollack also reported success in overcoming resource gaps with a flipped classroom structure.

These are all necessary steps for creating an environment for students of all different backgrounds to thrive. A Cornell education, however, extends the classroom. We are at Cornell to prepare ourselves for a future, and a mandatory life skills class requirement for freshmen could be another step that aligns with Pollack’s goal.

High schools with more resources offer students opportunities beyond just academic ones. These students might have more chances to give presentations, interact with professionals or receive career counseling. Some students have parents who they can ask for about salary negotiations, financial planning or graduate school options. These are not available to everyone and having these abilities can make a difference in a student’s future.

If every freshman that enters Cornell is required to go through a two to four credit class that reviews basic skills they may lack out of high school, the University could help reduce barriers that students face as they prepare for their future.

Making this class mandatory allows each student to walk away with the same foundation and could reduce any stigmas students may fear if they sign up for this class. This course could be an excellent place to educate new students about the resources on campus that also assist with these endeavors, such as the Career Services Office or the libraries. These few credits could provide students with a home-base, a faculty member who is dedicated to their non-academic skills and can provide freshman with another opportunity to meet their classmates and learn from each other.

President Pollack, you are doing a great thing by raising money and creating programs for students who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds. This course or an opportunity similar to this where students learn about school resources, post-Cornell options, financial literacy, healthcare, tenant’s rights or any other skills that students frequently need during or after Cornell would be another chance for socioeconomically diverse students to receive support they need or never previously received. Logistically, it may be a lot of maneuvering, especially with major and college requirements, but we require first-year writing seminars and non-academic skills are important to individual success, well-being and inclusivity, too.

The above editorial reflects the opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Editorials are penned collaboratively between the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor and Opinion Editor, in consultation with additional Sun editors and staffers. The Sun’s editorials are independent of its news coverage, other columnists and advertisers.