White House Highlights How Groups Have Pledged to Improve Access

Brendan Smialowski, AFP, Getty Images

Colleges, foundations, and nonprofit groups that are participating in Thursday's White House summit have made pledges on college access. The high-level focus reflects "how critical this issue is to the cause of increasing economic mobility in our country," a key adviser to the president said.
January 16, 2014

The more than 100 "commitments" that colleges, nonprofit groups, and foundations will make at a White House higher-education summit on Thursday will help hundreds of thousands of low-income students obtain a college degree, a top adviser to President Obama said on Wednesday.

In a call with reporters to preview Thursday's event, Gene B. Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, highlighted a few of the pledges the groups are prepared to make, including a promise by the Posse Foundation to provide an additional 250 scholarships to students pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, and a commitment by the National College Advising Corps to provide an additional 80,000 students with college counseling.

In conjunction with the call, the White House released a document detailing all of the commitments that the 100 colleges and 40 organizations attending the event will announce. They include pledges in four broad areas:

  • Connecting more low-income students to the college that is right for them and ensuring that more students graduate (80 colleges and 15 organizations).
  • Increasing the pool of students preparing for college through early intervention efforts (30 colleges and 12 organizations).
  • Leveling the playing field in college advising and test preparation (20 colleges and 16 organizations).
  • Seeking breakthroughs in remedial education (20 colleges, 23 states, and 10 organizations).

The Education Department will also announce several steps it will take to support low-income students, including encouraging colleges to place work-study students into college-counseling and college-mentoring jobs; focusing the Gear Up college-prep program on improving college fit and college readiness; developing and testing a new professional-development program for Upward Bound staff members; and sharing data with states and school districts on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, so they can better identify which students have completed the form and focus efforts to increase completion.

Mr. Sperling told reporters that the summit—part of "the president and the first lady's call to action on college opportunity"—was a reflection of "how critical this issue is to the cause of increasing economic mobility in our country."

"We're a country that believes that the outcomes of your life should not be determined by the accident of your birth," he said. "To make good on that, we have to do much more as a country to help young people succeed in college."

Mr. Sperling said Thursday's gathering would "not be the destination" but "the launch," with plans for a series of smaller convenings, a report, and a follow-up summit in the works.

Thursday's summit will begin with opening remarks by Mr. Sperling; Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser; and Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Panel discussions and remarks by the president and first lady will follow. In the afternoon, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will speak, and another panel discussion will occur. The event will be streamed live on the White House's website.