Socioeconomic Diversity

Princeton takes pride in its commitment to enabling students from all corners of society to benefit from our distinctive and transformational education. Socioeconomic diversity is a critical part of that commitment.

In 2013-2014, the Working Group on Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity, chaired by former Dean of the College Valerie Smith, examined what more Princeton could do to ensure that lower-income students succeed on its campus. The findings confirmed that lower-income students do indeed thrive here. They report high levels of satisfaction with their Princeton experience and achieve academic results comparable to other students who enter the University with similar academic credentials. At the same time, however, some gaps exist that may challenge students with limited resources or otherwise limit their sense of possibility. The working group recommended that Princeton address gaps of this kind through curricular improvements and extracurricular support that should benefit students from all income groups, without compromising the University’s tradition of academic excellence.

Some of the following recommendations are already being implemented, some require further consideration, and some will require additional funding sources.

Catalyze academic achievement at the highest levels and reduce curricular obstacles to academic success 

  • Create a named scholars program to nurture aspirations of high-achieving lower-income students through faculty mentoring, community building, and expansion of academic and professional opportunities. 
  • Expand the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning to better support student learning and to acknowledge more broadly the challenges of learning in the Princeton context. 
  • Create a sophomore initiative (a critical reading course, boot camp or summer program, for example) to prepare students for the transition to independent work.
  • Consider alternate systems for measuring academic performance in the freshman year.

STEM-specific recommendations

  • Build on existing programs and initiatives to encourage faculty to develop transformative teaching strategies that enhance the learning of students in STEM fields.
  • Explore the use of technology and online modules to improve retention in STEM fields.
  • Develop and support enhanced STEM-specific offerings in the Freshman Scholars Institute (FSI).
  • Offer summer versions of gateway STEM courses to create more pathways into STEM study. 

Centralize resources and coordinate campus partners

  • Form a standing committee of administrators charged with considering policies that affect the educational and social experiences of lower-income and first-generation students and, when necessary, the circumstances of individual students. 
  • Create online resources that will make transparent available resources for students from all backgrounds, but particularly lower-income and first-generation students.
  • Centralize systems for monitoring students' academic difficulties. 

Build a more inclusive campus culture and supportive climate

  • Train faculty academic advisers and college staff, including residential college advisers, to better recognize and manage issues of socioeconomic diversity. 
  • Include socioeconomic diversity in freshman orientation diversity programming. 
  • Highlight the existence of courses that address issues concerning social and economic inequality. 
  • Incorporate some sensitivity to socioeconomic diversity in residential housing assignments.
  • Create a robust mentoring network of peers, faculty, administrators and alumni, and leverage this network to raise campus awareness of socioeconomic diversity. 

Bridge the gap between Princeton and home communities

  • Survey the needs of college access partners such as Gates Millennium Scholars and Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America (LEDA) and devise a set of procedures for the University to follow in working and communicating with these organizations. 
  • Extend the reach of Freshman Families Weekend by streaming events live and making archived videos available afterwards.
  • Ensure that panels during Families Weekend and Princeton Preview include socioeconomically diverse students and address concerns most pressing to less prosperous parents.
  • Host receptions in major metropolitan areas during Families Weekend to involve families who are unable to travel to campus.
  • Revise existing and create new online resources for families of lower-income and first-generation students and consider translating these materials into other languages. 

Coordinating and making more visible the many resources Princeton already offers is an important next step, and the dean and her staff look forward to building on the initiatives we have already undertaken. We also need to do everything we can to embrace the opportunities an increasingly socioeconomically diverse community presents to enhance the quality of the education we provide and the richness of the experience for all who study and work on this campus.

To echo President Eisgruber’s remarks on the Trustee Diversity Report issued in 2013, Princeton’s institutional commitment to diversity has contributed immensely to the “scholarly and educational excellence” and “the fully vibrant and intellectual life” to which we aspire as an institution. In order to realize the full return on the University’s significant investment in financial aid, we must do more to enrich the opportunities of lower-income students while they are here and to provide them with a more rewarding experience of the University.

To learn more about Princeton's commitment to diversity, please visit the website Many voices, one future: An inclusive Princeton.