College Presidents, White House Officials Talk Recruitment of Needy Students

Roughly a dozen college presidents met with White House officials this week to discuss efforts to encourage more high-achieving, low-income students to apply to top colleges, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The meetings included discussions of the phenomenon known as “undermatching,” in which such students rarely apply to elite colleges, even though they would probably be accepted at those institutions. Presidents of some top research institutions are said to have met with James R. Kvaal, deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, and Gene B. Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.

Philip P. DiStefano, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, told Inside Higher Ed that the participants “especially talked about recruiting those overachieving students who are in schools where they don’t have the resources that many other students do but they’re doing just as well,” adding that it was “something that the president would like to see happen.”

The White House officials this week did not propose legislation but rather focused on what universities could do voluntarily to enroll more first-generation Pell Grant recipients, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
“The purpose of the meeting was really information gathering, for the White House to make some decisions about the next steps on this issue,” DiStefano said. “We talked about how can they improve what we’re doing with support — not financial support — but other types of support.”
Among those next steps, he added, might be “an acknowledgement of what we are doing and more of a recognition of what’s already going on.”
DiStefano said that the hourlong meeting consisted mostly of the university presidents telling White House officials of their efforts to recruit low-income students.

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