For Alexander Velazquez ’20, the value of education has always been a topic that resonated. After taking a class at Saint Joseph’s this past fall that focused on public education in America, his interest grew – but he still had many unanswered questions.
“As a low-income student, I feel this overwhelming motivation to do something that could educate people on the growing inequalities in higher education,” says Velazquez.
A risk management & insurance and economics double major, Velazquez decided to embark on a research project through the Summer Scholars program as a way to meet this goal. He is researching how a student’s family income relates to individual college readiness and the overall college admission process with respect to GPA scores and extracurricular activities.
His research aligns with the work of his mentor, Laura Crispin, Ph.D., assistant professor of Economics.
Crispin had previously analyzed trends in outcomes between low-income high school students and their peers with respect to such activities and time allocation. She found that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have less access to extracurricular(s), are more likely to work, and have higher high school dropout rates and lower college attendance and completion rates than their peers.
“Given the recent push toward college attendance, it is important to understand barriers in the pathway to college, specifically for first-generation college-goers and for students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” says Crispin. “Alex’s research focuses directly on these barriers to understand what types of resources are available to students to provide policy suggestions on increasing college readiness for low-income students.”
“The answer to the problems in American education policies is not always money; low-income students are in desperate need of adequate primary and secondary education,” says Velazquez.
A 2020 Deans’ Scholarship recipient and member of the SJU Honors Program, Velazquez says that earning the scholarship is one of the reasons he decided to explore this topic.
In addition to gaining a better understanding of the American education system, he hopes the work will help him develop time management skills and a more independent work ethic. He also plans to share his findings with the University community once they are complete.
Velazquez was involved in the SJU Theatre Company as a cast member in the most recent casts of “Carousel” and “Tommy” and participates in SJU’s student theatre company, Followed by a Bear. He is also the student communications chair of the Business Leadership Council and a Hawk Host.
Project Title: The Equalizer of Opportunity: An Examination of Income’s Effect on Education
Mentor: Laura Crispin, Ph.D., assistant professor of Economics
Hometown: Blackwood, New Jersey