Almost every college across the nation retains a gap between wealthier students and poorer students. This gap plays out in different ways; often, wealthier students pay more in tuition but can also afford better quality experiences like spring break trips and unpaid internships. The question for universities, then, is how to best address these gaps in a way beneficial for all involved.
Boston College Athletics, in coordination with the Montserrat Office, has answered this question in part through a free Gold Pass program which seeks to extend the mission of inclusivity to the stands of Alumni Stadium, Conte Forum, and Kelley Rink.
Many low-income students, when preparing for college, place purchasing a Gold Pass on the bottom of their list of priorities. The price of a Gold Pass is steep, typically around $200, quite unattainable for students whose families live paycheck to paycheck or who need to save summer job money for textbooks.
The result is that low-income students miss out on key social opportunities. It’s hard to scroll through Instagram the Sunday after a game and not see pictures of friends in the stands or at a tailgate. Whether or not a student likes football, it’s hard to deny that these moments are part of the Boston College experience.
This fact is not lost on the heads of the Athletics department and the Montserrat Office, which offers support to students facing financial barriers. When Athletics began offering the Gold Pass in 2014, they extended a certain number to interested members of the Montserrat Coalition. Students had all the perks of Gold Pass membership, but some were left out of the process due to a limit on funding. This resulted in many Eagles fans sitting at home on game day. With the recent ticketing change came a new proposal for Montserrat students, designed to meet the different needs and tastes of the Montserrat coalition: students would RSVP for games and receive a paper ticket from the Montserrat Office.
Initially, Montserrat staff members expressed concern about the new procedure. Students would have to trek up to the office on College Road in order to receive their ticket and would stand out from their peers on game day due to having a paper ticket rather than a digital one. These fears are understandable, since the barriers placed in front of low-income students are often seemingly small or peripheral. However, upon rolling out the program, both Athletics and Montserrat have seen nothing but positives.
According to the Montserrat Office, staff members are able to meet the needs of every student who wishes to attend home football games, and students are even granted access to Gold Pass tailgates. Over 1,000 students RSVPed for the season opener, with about 750 of those actually attending the game. Numbers dropped off for Week 2, but are on track to be as strong for Week 3 vs. Kansas.
While ticket distribution can be hectic at times, the staff has found it exciting to engage with a large number of students. Visiting the office can be a slight inconvenience, but it also acts as a way of getting Montserrat Coalition members in the door who otherwise may not have been aware of the benefits and assistance the office provides beyond tickets. Reportedly, students haven’t expressed feeling isolated by having a paper ticket, and can even get a replacement ticket from the will call booth on gameday should they encounter any difficulties.
The same procedures will be in place for basketball and hockey tickets, and some students prefer the à-la-carte method of choosing games. Not every student is a football fan, but some are ravenous basketball supporters. These students wouldn’t need a ticket to every game, and the new policy means they are ensured access to most every ticketed event that interests them. There are a few exceptions for high-interest games, but this limitation extends to regular Gold Pass members as well. Further, limitations typically only occur a few games each year, meaning the majority of events are covered by the program.
All in all, Athletics has continually shown a commitment to extending the gameday experience across economic lines to students who can feel left out in BC’s affluent culture. Sports are a chance for students to gather and unite behind their school, and missing those experiences only perpetuates the feeling that BC isn’t a home for low-income students. The new ticket program, while worrisome in theory, has proven successful in practice.
There are many things about the college experience for low-income students that the university can’t change. It can’t buy students brand-name clothes or give scholarships for trips to Punta Cana. However, expressions of solidarity and care like the Gold Pass program show that for all its faults, BC can be a home for students of diverse backgrounds. That, quite simply, is the name of the game.