Student Senate- Seth Wingerter

Then-Student Body Vice President-elect Seth Wingerter explains there is more work to do in the Senate's future during a Full Senate meeting Wednesday, April 24. 

A bill passed through the Student Rights Committee Wednesday which would have the Status of Marginalized Students Subcommittee explore ways for the University of Kansas to retain Pell Grant-eligible students after the University’s recent low ranking in social mobility.

A U.S. News & World Report ranked the University no. 377 out of 381 colleges across the nation in the social mobility category. The category measures Pell Grant recipients’ success at universities. The Pell Grant is typically reserved for students whose annual household income is less than $50,000. 

Student Body Vice President Seth Wingerter and Senate Chief of Staff Zach Thomason introduced the bill to the Rights committee after reading the report, which was published on Sept. 9.

“No doubt that it is an extreme disappointment this is where our university is at when we are so highly ranked in other things,” Thomason said. “We’re one of the best schools in the Midwest from a public school perspective. It’s concerning, and Student Senate has to take action.”

Senators will discuss the ranking in next week’s Full Senate meeting and decide how to move forward with ways to improve the ranking beyond this bill, Thomason said.

“[I]t may have slipped through the cracks, but it’s definitely a systemic problem, and systemic problems require a significant reevaluation of where you’re at and how you can solve those problems,” Wingerter said.

The bill also passed through the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Most average household incomes below or near $50,000 are people of color, according to data from the latest U.S. census.

“We were relatively light on legislation this cycle, so we’re trying to really foster that conversation during next Full Senate and just trying to open that discussion in how we can better serve marginalized students in every facet of the word,” Wingerter said.

Thomason and Wingerter hope this initiative opens a broader conversation to how the University can better recruit and retain Pell Grant students. 

“We believe in this campus, and we want to see those positive results that we know this campus can provide,” Thomason said. “I hope University administration sees this and says, ‘You know what, these students are ready to take the charge. Let’s come to the table with them. Let’s see what we can do to fix this.’”

The final vote on the bill will occur in Full Senate Wednesday, Sept. 18.