Director speaks on alleviating financial concerns of college students
Aidan Lewis | Tuesday, March 28, 2017
The Office of Student Enrichment — founded in late 2015 — was the topic of conversation at the diversity and inclusion lecture series Monday night at Debartolo Hall. Director of the Office of Student Enrichment Marc Burdell spoke about the Office’s founding and its purpose — to help make Notre Dame financially feasible for low-income students.
“The task was to figure out how to put together a new office that would really figure out how all of our students, regardless of socioeconomic status, first generation college status, non-traditional background or anything else for that matter, could feel welcome at the university,” Burdell said.
Burdell, a Notre Dame alumnus, said he was particularly motivated to work in the office because he himself came from humble beginnings.
“I showed up in 1983 without a winter coat, my dad worked in a grocery store and I was the first in my family to go to college,” Burdell said. “I didn’t have a dime, but it was awesome. I had the greatest experience.”
Burdell said leaving for college as a low-income student brings with it many complications.
“You don’t just unplug from your family’s situation,” Burdell said. “Many of our students here were helping to raise their families, helping to support their families and helping run their families. When they left, there’s a void there and there are also some feelings of guilt.”
To help students deal with such issues, Burdell said the office has set up a peer-advising program.
“We try to pair students who have been here and have gone through certain things with students who just got here and are likely going to go through similar experiences,” Burdell said.
Due to its relatively recent founding, Burdell said one of the office’s priorities is to educate students on the office and the resources it can provide.
“We need to inform our community and our campus as to what’s going on,” Burdell said. “We put a lot of time into making these presentations, having these conversations and really informing all of campus as to what we’re trying to do.”
Thus far, Burdell said one of his main focuses has been to hear as many student voices as possible.
“We have probably talked one-on-one or in small groups with somewhere between 700 and 800 students over the past 18 months,” he said.
Burdell said he has learned that students are most concerned about financial aid and ensuring that money does not hold them back from having the Notre Dame experience. To help this problem, Burdell said the Office of Student Enrichment offers the Student Experience Fund, which is funded entirely by profits from The Shirt.
“If you say ‘Hey, I need help with this or that, or I want to go to this conference, or I want to go to my dorm’s dance’, then the fund can probably help you out,” he said.
Additionally, Burdell said the Office launched the Fighting Irish Scholars Pilot program this year, which aims to better fund 55 high-achieving, under-resourced students by providing them with $1,000 in cash and $1,000 in Domer Dollars.
“We give this money to the students and let them decide on their own how to budget, how to choose their experience and how to meet their own needs,” Burdell said. “We’re not going to tell them how to do it.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Burdell spoke to the financial burden of a Notre Dame education. Burdell addressed financial concerns of students related to the campus experience and outside the cost of attendance. The Observer regrets this error.