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White House Hosts Summit on College Opportunity

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January 21, 2014

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White House Hosts Summit on College Opportunity

On January 16, President Obama hosted a group of approximately 140 college presidents, business people, foundation heads and nonprofit executives at an event focusing on improving college access for low-income students. The “Call to Action on College Opportunity,” as it was termed by the White House, involved a range of discussions examining successful strategies to ensure low-income students get in to and graduate from college.

In order to attend the event, college presidents or other groups had to pledge to conduct new activities specifically targeted toward the enrollment or success of low-income students. Such pledges are detailed in a document released by the White House, and range from new scholarship opportunities to more intensive recruiting and advisement.

The event was an opportunity for the Administration to use its “bully pulpit” to draw attention, and incentivize action, on activities that it values—without having to have congressional approval for legislation.

A key theme of the day was “undermatching,” or the idea that highly qualified students don’t attend the most rigorous institutions they could. The majority of attendees at the event were private, four-year institutions, although 11 community colleges made commitments. There was some criticism that the event excluded many institutions that already serve a low-income population, and that the Administration’s effort was largely symbolic. Regardless of those criticisms though, most attendees agreed the attention on low-income students was useful, and we are likely to see more in the future.

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