The Colorado College Winter Start Orientation program began Jan. 13, bringing with it a host of new students, and a renewed discussion about accessibility and diversity at CC.
An anonymous winter start decried the program, citing its apparent lack of income diversity and its evident dearth of ethnic diversity. When questioned about potential reasoning for the affluence that, anecdotally at least, pervades the winter start program, this student repeated what he heard from his winter start peers: winter starts are not accounted for financially like other students are. According to the theory, almost all winter starts pay full tuition because the school can “cover it up” in their statistics about financial aid, statistics that supposedly only account for general admission students.
While compelling, this theory is almost certainly untrue. The metrics significant to CC’s financial aid, which are displayed on their website and logged by their staff for tax purposes, cite students as, “First-Time, Full-Time Undergraduates.” This means that winter starts are included in the financial statistics that are visible to the public. However, questions about winter starts don’t end here: even if there isn’t a conspiracy behind it, why the marked lack of diversity in CC’s winter start students?
Matt Bonser, a Director of Admissions and CC graduate, was quick to point out that an income-pattern in winter start students is “probably smaller than it’s perceived to be.” Bonser is enthusiastic about the “changing dynamics” of the winter start and gap year programs at CC. Programs like NOLS, he admits, are expensive; however, by having conversations earlier with students and their families about just how valuable a deferred semester can be, Bonser expects to reach a larger, more diverse crowd of would-be winter starts. Bonser also commented that another benefit of early conversations would be the ability to actually reach students who are without support groups to help suggest and fund things like Outward Bound or Where There Be Dragons. That way, students who otherwise might have felt that a late start would delay their lives are more likely to understand the advantages of a semester off.
Statistics on winter start enrollment suggest that this approach is, in fact, working. The program has increased steadily in size since its inception alongside its analogous counterpart gap year program. This growth, Bonser believes, will bring with it the diversity the program seems to lack and could benefit from.