NU Quest Scholars Network plans to address course expenses, meal plans for low-income students

Jake Holland, Reporter

Northwestern Quest Scholars Network is working to address topics ranging from course expenses to meal plans for low-income students on campus this year.

To improve course accessibility, Quest Scholars vice president Madisen Hursey said the group plans to reach out to Associated Student Government to ensure NU professors comply with the Federal Textbook Price Disclosure law, which requires professors disclose the retail prices of their learning materials for each class during course registration.

By listing these prices, low-income students can better assess if a class is economically feasible for them, said Hursey, a Weinberg sophomore.

Weinberg senior Ashley Wood, ASG vice president for academics, said ASG has other plans to better serve low-income students at NU.

“One of our priorities this year is administering funding by working with (Student Enrichment Services) and planning meetings with Quest Scholars to discuss the best ways to help students,” Wood said. “Whether that be through scholarship opportunities or increasing the amount of course reserves.”

Quest Scholars is working closely with SES to accomplish its goals, Hursey said. Recently appointed SES assistant director Sharitza Rivera will head Compass, a peer mentoring program for low-income students, which Hursey said will allow SES director Kourtney Cockrell to be more available to work with Quest.

SES staff could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Another concern the group hopes to address is the disadvantages faced by low-income students with on-campus meal plans, Hursey said.

She said Sodexo’s Weekly 14 Meal Plan places low-income students at a disadvantage because the current policy limits students to only use one meal or Equivalency Meal per meal period, meaning they are unable to swipe for a meal and buy supplemental food at a C-store during the same period.

“That’s something a lot of low-income students rely on because they can’t go to Whole Foods and buy a lot of groceries,” she said.

Rachel Hamil, communications and engagement manager of Sodexo at NU, said the dining policy is nothing new, but meeting the needs of all students remains a top priority.

“Student security is a huge concern for our team,” Hamil said. “We’re constantly meeting with various student groups.”

Still, until the policy changes, many low-income students — especially freshmen, who tend to have the Weekly 14 Meal Plan — are left to choose between buying groceries and eating a meal at the dining hall, Hursey said.

Hursey also said Quest Scholars is working to help students who will be affected by the upcoming termination of long-term counseling at the Women’s Center. Because of the stigma associated with Counseling and Psychological Services, many low-income students currently rely on the Women’s Center for support, she said.

“A lot of times, low-income and first generation students face really specific mental health issues related to their socioeconomic circumstances,” Hursey said.

She said the group plans on reaching out to student organizations such as NU Active Minds to help bridge the gap left by the termination of long-term counseling at the Women’s Center.

Quest Scholars is also working to expand the prevalence of on-campus events through increased programming, the group’s president Steffany Bahamon said. Quest plans to host events every two weeks as opposed to every four, the McCormick senior said.

Past community-building events include an ice cream social and an event with McKinsey and Company. Bahamon said Quest Scholars plans on conducting similar events with Google in which students will have the opportunity to learn how to interview successfully and how to navigate the job application process.

“Mostly what we’ve been trying to do is build a sense of community,” she said.

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