Future of Priority Points up for Debate

The Marist College administration is considering parting ways with an institutional tradition: priority points.

The system, which is designed to increase involvement in clubs and activities by rewarding students with the ability to choose their on-campus housing, has come under scrutiny in recent years.

According to a press release issued by the Student Government Association, the administration is paying special attention to the impacts of the system on students who hail from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Statistics suggest that priority points disproportionately affect this demographic.

“As we all know the priority points system is responsible for the high student engagement of our collegiate life amongst many other benefits,” the press release stated. “While there are a myriad of benefits to this unique system, students who are of a lower socioeconomic background do not hold equal access to perform as well as other students in this system due to their responsibilities to their families and home life, multiple jobs, acclimating to collegiate level academics, and a host of other reasons.”

The priority points system places on-campus housing in a meritocratic light, enabling students to garner a certain number of points through different avenues, including, most significantly, their Grade Point Average (GPA), as well as their involvement in clubs and activities, their behavioral performance, and smaller factors such as room cleanliness. On-campus housing options are then offered on a prioritized, first-come, first-serve basis—where students with a higher number of points are offered an earlier time-slot, bettering their chances of obtaining their desired housing than students with a lower number of points.

According to the Student Government Association, the administration is now contemplating the substantive impacts of the procedurally fair system, which, in implementation, places lower income students at a disadvantage both academically and financially. The notion centers on the idea that students who grew up in wealthier areas generally attended well-funded public schools that attract highly qualified teachers. These students, then, tend to have higher GPA’s during their freshman year of college—earning them a greater number of priority points.

Students without this advantage undergo a more difficult transition to collegiate-level academics, making it harder for them to achieve a high initial GPA and the wave of priority points that comes with it.

The argument additionally suggests that low-income students typically have financial obligations, requiring them to maintain a job while going to school, limiting their flexibility to participate in on-campus activities.

The administration is also considering the positive affects of the system—including a generally increased involvement in campus activities and the ability of students to maintain some sort of say in their housing options.

SGA noted that the decision is ultimately in the hands of the administration, although the organization has been tasked with presenting a recommendation on Nov. 15 to President David Yellen based on student feedback and suggestions as to whether the priority point system should remain as is, be modified, or change completely to a lottery system.

“SGA stands firm to the belief that all student voices need to be heard on such a monumental decision,” the organization wrote. “We will be creating opportunities to allow students to voice their opinion effectively on the topic.”

Alyssa HurlbutComment