White House Invites College Leaders to Closed-Door Meeting on Affordability

December 02, 2011

Several university presidents and chancellors will join President Obama for a private meeting at the White House on Monday to talk about affordability in higher education.

The White House and the Education Department did not respond to questions about the meeting, which was first reported on Friday by Inside Higher Ed, an online news source.

But an official of a higher-education association, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the presidents and other leaders in attendence will include F. King Alexander, president of California State University at Long Beach; Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas system; Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University; William (Brit) Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland; Holden Thorp, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York. The names of other invitees could not be learned late Friday.

The discussion will be a candid conversation about how higher education can remove barriers "to college access, affordability, and success for students," according to a letter of invitation, from the White House to the higher-education leaders, that was obtained by The Chronicle.

The letter says the Obama administration wants to discuss ways to bring down "overall campus costs" and to make other innovations so college is more affordable for students. According to the letter, the meeting comes at a time when a college degree has become essential for Americans to compete in the global marketplace, and when the cost of college is almost three times what it was in the 1980s.

The education secretary, Arne Duncan, and several White House advisers will join the discussion, but few other details were released by the White House on Friday.

"Our administration has committed to a policy agenda to advance college access, affordability, and attainment, by increasing student financial aid and enhancing transparency around college affordability information," the letter says.