Making Off-Campus Excursions Accessible to All

During my college admissions process, I thought that the location of the Claremont Colleges provided the best of both worlds. On one hand, they offered the classic residential college experience, each with their enclosed campus and suburban setting. They were also advertised in various college brochures and online resources as being nestled just an hour’s train ride away from Los Angeles, an urban paradise chock full of all the arts, entertainment, and internship resources a college student could ever need.

However, as I’ve learned so far in the admittedly short amount of time that I’ve been here, there exists a deep and rather unsettling disparity between the students who can and cannot access both the Claremont and Los Angeles communities. Although the colleges are a short walk away from the Claremont Village, accessing it can be a weighty task for some students. The Village is, after all, heavily populated with stores and restaurants that appeal more to upper-class residents of the town. Of course, it has some delightful thrift stores and cafes, but the vast majority of its activities can be pretty pricey. In addition, the Village’s quaint feel can quickly become tiring. It does not take long to develop the urge to explore the diverse variety of activities and resources in the greater Los Angeles area.

However, visiting the city is simply impossible for many students. Almost every weekend, some of my 5C friends post photos of themselves on social media at places like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Malibu, or even just a nice restaurant in the city. Of course, I understand why my friends would want to document their excursions, and I’m happy that they are enjoying themselves in such a great city.  But, as each weekend rolls around, I often feel pressure to get out of Claremont and explore Los Angeles. It seems that nearly everyone  is “taking the initiative” to make the best use of the city, which can be frustrating if its price tag is not as accessible to you.  

The Metrolink student ticket fare from Claremont to L.A. Union station is a steep fourteen dollars for a round-trip journey. That price alone poses a concern, not to mention the cost of taking a bus or an Uber from one place to another. “I expected to go into LA on a biweekly basis, which has definitely not been the case,” Meghan Joyce SC ‘20 said to me. When asked why she doesn’t visit the city more often, she said, “Because you have to pay to get there and it takes a lot of time [on the Metrolink].” Indeed, Los Angeles is not a city endowed with a public transportation system like those of Boston or New York City, for example.

I’ve learned in my time here that staying on campus for too long limits your ability to connect your liberal arts education to the surrounding world. Los Angeles is home to nationally and internationally recognized museums, concert halls, and theaters. 5C students have endless opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real-world contexts. Not only does Los Angeles offer an immense amount of cultural and educational resources, but it can also be a retreat from the stress that college can impose.

Our college administrations have initiated some efforts to fund off-campus activities. For example, Pomona’s Smith Campus Center (SCC) subsidizes several trips to L.A. museums, beaches, and parks. It should be noted, though, that the vast majority of these trips are exclusive to Pomona students. Scripps’ Associated Students (SAS) also occasionally organizes off-campus trips to attractions in and around the city.

Despite these efforts by the colleges, there is still much more that could be done to make getting off campus easier. Why don’t the 5Cs subsidize Metrolink tickets for their students? Why don’t the Colleges provide weekend shuttles to Los Angeles for students? Offering weekly or biweekly free trips to attractions would not only ease the burden of travel expenses for many lower-income students; it would also help enhance students’ educational and personal experiences.

Tiara Sharma SC '20 is from Braintree, Massachusetts. She intends on majoring in English and maybe philosophy.