'The College Tour' comes to Arizona, makes seeing campuses accessible to low-income students
Choosing where to go to college is a big decision for anyone. Visiting college campuses can make that decision easier, but not everyone gets that opportunity.
Marcos De Niza High School in Tempe serves a lot of low income and Hispanic students. Many of them will be the first in their family to go on to higher education.
Erin Smith is the Counseling Department Lead there. She said when students talk to her about college, the first question they ask is:
“Can we afford it? Is it even within my reach?”
Many of her students think college is simply not an option for them.
“Maybe they need to work to support their family at home,” Smith said. “We definitely have conversations with them all the time about how accessible it is, especially at the community college level.”
But how do students know where they want to go, especially if they can’t afford to visit some campuses in person?
This is something that television producer Alex Boylan has thought a lot about. Two years ago, he started a show called “The College Tour.”
“Each episode tells the story of a different college campus across America,” Boylan said.
The show takes viewers on a virtual tour of each school’s classrooms and features their students’ academic journeys.
“So no matter where you are in your potential college journey search, whether you’re a young person in high school or an adult learner, you get to get a real sense of what that campus, the culture, the feeling is really all about,” Boylan said.
The show has released about 100 episodes in its first two years.
“There’s 2,500 four-year institutions and above, there’s another 900 community colleges across the country,” Boylan said. “That’s a lot. We want to tell the story of every single one of them.”
The idea for the show came up when Boylan’s niece started looking at schools. She took a trip to visit a few campuses in California.
“Soon after that, she was like, ‘I wanna go look at schools in Arizona and I wanna look at schools in Florida, Texas, New York and everywhere else,’” Boylan said. “Her mom, was like ‘What do you think, we’re made of money?’ Most people do not have the finances to travel across America and just go step foot on campus at every place they want to.”
Now the show is making those tours accessible to even more families. Producers released their first Spanish language episode in August, featuring the Maricopa Community Colleges.
Boylan said they were in the process of filming an English episode at the school when they started to think about the large population of students from families whose parents and grandparents only speak Spanish.
“We want to make sure we’re speaking to them because when you look into the LatinX and Hispanic market, when their young person is going off to school, the whole family feels like they’re going off to school,” Boylan said. “It’s their culture.”
That was the case for Frida Guzman, who was featured on the Spanish episode of “The College Tour.” She is originally from Mexico City and moved to Arizona when she was 15 years old to attend high school.
“When I saw the difference between my country and this country, I felt like this was the perfect place for me to grow.”
She moved in with some family members who lived in Gilbert, without her parents by her side.
“English is not my first language. So I had to go to English As A Second Language (ESL) classes for some time,” Guzman said. “I honestly didn’t know what was going to be after high school.”
But she did well in her classes, got a scholarship to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and now is in her second year of studying business. She said sometimes she’s still surprised that today she’s an American college student.
So when she heard “The College Tour” was looking for students to feature in their program, she jumped at the chance.
“When I came here, I didn’t feel like there was a lot of representation so for me,” Guzman said. “It’s important for [people] to know that immigrants or first generation students or women can do it.”
After getting her associates degree, Guzman plans to transfer to Arizona State for a bachelor’s in business administration. She’ll be the first in her family to do so.
EDITOR’S NOTE: KJZZ is licensed to The Maricopa Community College District.