Weinberg to implement Art for Cats, pilot program that will cover art supplies


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

The Office of Undergraduate Admission, Undergraduate Financial Aid, and Undergraduate Research. Weinberg is implementing a new pilot program to partially cover costs for supplies required in two introductory art courses this winter.

James Pollard and Neya Thanikachalam

The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences is implementing a new pilot program to partially cover costs for supplies required in two introductory art courses this winter.

The program, called Art for Cats, will assist with costs associated with Art 220: Introduction to Painting and Art 250: Introduction to Photography. The program is similar to Books for Cats, which provides free STEM textbooks and course materials to first-generation low-income students.

Mary Finn, the associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs, said after Books for Cats launched in 2017, students and advisors began asking her about aid for non-STEM course costs.

“It’s really got to be a combination of perhaps providing some financial assistance to students who are low-income, but also on behalf of everybody because there are many students who don’t qualify, but who will find it’s still a lot of money,” Finn said. “What are some less expensive ways to do things?”

The fund prioritizes covering students with the greatest financial need, about one-third of students receiving Northwestern grant assistance, said Brian Drabik, the senior associate director at the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid, in an email.

Drabik said financial aid worked closely with Weinberg to create a process for funding students and will help by identifying eligible students and increasing the financial aid award by the appropriate amount.

“We hope with initiatives like Art for Cats, we can continue and grow to work to remove financial barriers so that all students have access to the academic and creative opportunities the University offers to students,” Drabik said.

Martin said expenses for Introduction to Photography include photo paper, which can be costly. For Introduction to Painting, he said expenses include brushes, oil paints, canvasses and chemicals used for “fitting the paint,” which makes them more fluid.

Matthew Martin, department assistant in the art, theory and practice program, said the University determined which students might have qualified for financial assistance in past years. He said more students would have qualified in the photo and painting courses, adding that those classes also had higher expenses than other art classes, making them a smart choice.

“(The courses) seemed like a good place to start and just see how this goes,” Martin said. “And then, presumably, if this goes well, and it seems likely that we can kind of continue offering this, then just start adding other classes to it.”

While the Books for Cats program helps cover the costs of introductory STEM courses, Finn said the pilot program is an attempt to signal that it is equally important for students to be able to explore other arts courses.

“(The Department of Art Theory and Practice) has much to offer its students, and that experience of taking introductory art courses is a really valuable academic experience no less valuable than STEM classes,” Finn said.

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Twitter: @pamesjollard

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