Parkland Pathway not paved for everyone

Sierra Benson

Staff Writer

Parkland’s Pathway program is a great road to take to an associate degree and orient oneself with the University of Illinois campus, but in some eyes the program is far from meeting its goals.

The Pathway Program was first intended to create a more diverse student population at the University of Illinois. The UI’s web page on the Parkland Pathway program makes no secret of this fact.

“First-time college students applying to the program are given preference for admission,” the site reads. “In addition, priority is granted to students who can bring diversity to campus, including those who are low income, are first generation, or have veteran status. Residents of the Parkland College district are also given priority.”

Joe Omo-Osagie, who works in Parkland’s counseling and advising center, does not think the program has accomplished its goal.

“Why have this thing called Pathway when you’re still doing the same thing?” Omo-Osagie said. “Many of the kids who are coming into Pathway are already well prepared to go to the U of I…I think it’s a waste of time, especially since it’s not doing what it says it’s going to do. They’re not beating down any doors in the south side of Chicago, they’re not looking for women to go into engineering, they’re not looking for minorities to go into any of those fields.”

“It’s still the same kids,” he said.

On the UI’s website that includes student enrollment demographics, some things have slightly changed. Although there are more men in engineering than women, the number of women has increased by about 40% compared to men who increased by about 26%. Despite there being more women attempting to go into STEM fields, the overall enrollment for men is higher and has significantly increased by 2,193 while women have only increased by 434.

Within the Parkland Pathway program, the total number of self-reported African Americans has gone down by 357. Even though the number of self-reported Caucasians have gone down as well, they are still the racial majority when all other races except African-Americans have increased in enrollment.

When comparing the year the program began in 2008 with the past semester of fall 2015 it is important to note that there has since been added a new race category for those who identify as being of more than one race.

Previous Parkland Pathway student, Sam Reuter, shares his thoughts about the program.

“The way the Pathway program works, as I understand it, is it’s for people like me who didn’t get accepted into the University of Illinois or didn’t even bother trying because they knew they wouldn’t get in,” Reuter said.

Reuter also explains his motivation to join the program.

“I was under the assumption that good ACT, plus good feedback from the theater department at the U of I, would equal my acceptance, but it didn’t.”

Reuter’s grade-point average was not at the percentile the college preferred it to be.

“I think it’s mainly for people who live in Champaign County,” he said. “I know me being in the Pathway Program and not living in Champaign was an oddity. If [my] professor hadn’t told me about it I would have never known it existed.”

The take-away is that even if students are advantaged and have met most—if not all the requirements to get into the UI—they may choose to go into the Pathway program anyway since tuition is cheaper, university facilities are open to them, and some Parkland professors also teach similar classes at the university.

Thusly, while the Parkland Pathway program is adamant about favoring first-time, nontraditional, and minority college students for entry into the University of Illinois, more work may be needed for it to actually follow through with its self-stated goal and not just cater to local students with high grade-point averages.