Bridge From Poverty

By: Dr. John Smarrelli Jr.
This article originally appeared in an op-ed letter in the Commercial Appeal

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s announcement that the federal government would be providing Pell Grant support to high school students seeking dual enrollment credit from either two- or four-year colleges.

As CBU’s president, I applaud efforts to make college courses accessible to our qualified high school students, as we currently offer many dual-enrollment options for Shelby County students, including an incredible partnership with Middle College High School, one of three high schools in Tennessee given Blue Ribbon status by the Department of Education.

Photo: Brand Dill, Commercial Appeal

Prior to the announcement, in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan, the troubling theme that pervaded the session was equating financially poor with academic deficiency and needing significant remediation. As president of a university where more than 40 percent of our traditional students qualify for Pell Grant support, I find these students continuing to excel in engineering, the sciences, arts, and business.

I find it to be highly disrespectful to equate academic ability and performance with socioeconomic status, and CBU remains a place where students in financial need can succeed, and as graduates positively contribute to our local workforce.

I am sure my colleagues at the University of Memphis and other local colleges and universities would concur with my assessment. We appreciate all of the efforts both statewide and nationally to make college attainment a bridge out of poverty for these students.


Dr. John Smarrelli Jr. is President of Christian Brothers University
Posted by Josh Colfer at 10:44 AM

The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.

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