UT should establish transportation programs for walking tours

Amy DonJuan, Columnist

Austin is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States — but that wealth doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of Texas. In Texas, there are 4,547 Title I eligible schools that receive additional funding from the U.S. Department of Education, as they mostly consist of lower-income student populations. 

The University must better support prospective students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. This can be achieved through a transportation program that busses high-achieving Title I high school students to participate in campus walking tours.

UT claims to be one of the most diverse universities in the nation. But the 2019 UT Report to the Governor showed that more than 50% of students’ family incomes were greater than the national median income. Consequently, most UT students come from wealthy families and are not representative of Texas’ overall socioeconomic diversity.

The lack of household income diversity at UT reveals that gifted, low-income students are simply not as aware of the University’s resources. A transportation program that brings students to tour campus will allow them to glimpse Longhorn life and gain exposure to UT’s opportunities. 

Business honors freshman Karime Ramirez said that a transportation program would have been a deciding factor in her college application process. 

“I think that (a transportation program) would help a lot,” Ramirez said. “I think it would encourage a lot of lower-income students to apply to UT and to become more engaged with the campus. … Whenever I was a senior in high school, I would have definitely felt a little bit more welcome to the University.” 

UT vastly underestimates the value that campus tours offer to lower-income prospective students. Although there are some opportunities for students to visit UT at no cost, an official program remains unimplemented.  

“The Office of Admissions works closely with community-based organizations, such as federally funded TRIO programs (including Talent Search and Upward Bound) and high school counselors from Texas Advance Partner schools to fund field trips to UT-Austin at no cost for their students,” said Alexandria Mitchell, director of prospective student experience, in an email.

Yes, the University already offers support for students. However, relying on other organizations is an infeasible strategy. 

As part of this new program, a bus could pick up students early in the morning and bring them to campus to experience the community. The University could also provide food for students and then transport them back at the end of the day. 

Establishing this program could make students more aware of UT’s campus and would increase substantive efforts to support Title I schools. UT must engage students from all economic backgrounds, and this program is a logistical next step. 

DonJuan is a Plan II and economics freshman from Quanah, TX.