Gateway attacks misguided

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October 17, 2008

1:09 AM

The Gateway Program isn’t really a quota. But you wouldn’t know that if you read The Virginia Gazette. In fact, when it comes to Gateway, sentiments seem as confused as they are passionate. Misconceptions abound. So, while we doubt that College of William and Mary President Taylor Reveley intended to stir controversy by revealing that the program had raised $10 million, controversy followed just the same — most of it undeserved and some of it just plain wrong.

Consider Karla Bruno’s ’81Oct. 11 column in The Virginia Gazette, which ran under the headline “Gateway is really a quota.” That’s not just wrong, it’s sensationally wrong. And, unfortunately for Bruno, that headline didn’t even capture her argument. The editor who appended it appeared more interested in perpetuating prejudices than in creating a thoughtful dialogue. Four days later, the paper ran a letter critical of Bruno’s column, giving it the headline “Gateway is great.” Next to it they included a stock photo of a smiling young black man holding a $100 bill. The purpose of such a picture escapes us. Its relevance to the Gateway Program escapes us. It never should have run.

But let’s return to Bruno, who, for her part, misrepresented how Gateway operates. She wrongly asserted that Gateway’s $10 million endowment yanked much-needed money from the general operating budget. In reality, all $10 million came from private donors who considered Gateway most worthy of their money.
When former College President Gene Nichol unveiled the initiative three years ago, he offered students from financially disadvantaged families a guarantee: Money would not keep them from attending the College. In years past, the College could not fully fund its financial aid programs. That meant that even after gaining admission, some students were asked to pay more than they could hope to afford.

The Gateway Program, though, promised full scholarships to in-state students whose families made less than $40,000 a year, regardless of race. But that promise entailed a sacrifice. The $4 million it required every year needed to come from somewhere, and other programs bore the burden.

However, Reveley’s announcement shows that Gateway need not be a zero-sum game. Of course, $10 million falls well short of the $80 million the program will need to achieve complete independence, but it is a welcome step in the right direction. For all the Virginia families, of any race, who thought they could never afford to send their children to College, there is hope in that.

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