New Commitments to Improve College Opportunity

Cross-posted from The White House Blog

Last January, I listened to the President ask hundreds of college presidents to increase college opportunity for all Americans. He asked them to help because a college degree remains one of the surest pathways into the middle class in America, and is an especially powerful engine of social and economic mobility.

Over this decade, nearly 8 in 10 new jobs will require some postsecondary education or training beyond high school. And of the 30 fastest growing occupations, half require a college degree. At the same time, college graduates earn an average of 77 percent more per hour than a high school graduate. President Obama set forth a goal early in his first term to guide our work in education – to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

And yesterday, I had the privilege of joining Secretary Duncan in meeting with community college leaders who have made new commitments to ensure student success, because, in order to make progress on our goal to be first in the world, we need to embrace some of the foundational challenges to college enrollment, persistence, and completion.

Our nation’s community colleges are the engines of our higher education system. As the largest part of America’s higher education system, these institutions provide the education and training to prepare our 21st century workforce and are an ideal place to raise the knowledge and skills of our workforce – and to meet the academic needs of a diverse population of learners, from recent high school graduates to adults seeking new skills.

Following yesterday’s meeting, today we are announcing several developments in our efforts to expand college opportunity for all:

  • The White House announces second College Opportunity Summit: The Administration is announcing that the White House will host another College Opportunity Summit on December 4, 2014. The goal of this conference will build on the work launched in the first College Opportunity Summit last January, while launching initiatives in new areas. This year’s summit will focus on building sustainable collaborations in communities with strong K-12 and higher education partnerships to encourage college going, and supporting colleges to work together to dramatically improve persistence and increase college completion, especially for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students.
  • New community college partners working to expand college opportunity: The Administration is announcing 14 new commitments by community colleges to expand college opportunity by strengthening college readiness for academically underprepared students, building on the more than 100 colleges and universities and 40 nonprofit organizations who made commitments in January.
  • New commitments from the field to strengthen college readiness: The Department of Education’s Institute for Education Studies (IES) is launching a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) led by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University and the social policy research organization MDRC that will work to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college-readiness efforts across the nation. In addition, Khan Academy is announcing new commitments that will focus on technology-based solutions customized to improve student success in developmental math. Lastly, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation will commit $5 million, partnering with MDRC, the Ohio Board of Regents, and City University of New York (CUNY) to replicate CUNY’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) to support as many as 2,000 community college students in Ohio to help more students graduate sooner.
  • Continued progress on ongoing college opportunity commitments: In addition to new commitments, we continue to make progress on our previously announced efforts to expand access to college for all students, including efforts to improve the effectiveness of college advising and enhance support for school counselors, and increasing efforts to boost student achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to broaden participation in STEM fields to women, underrepresented groups, and students from low-income or underserved communities.

These efforts have inspired engagement and supported the progress of education leaders who are taking collective action in their schools, on college campuses, and in their communities to do all they can to help more low-income students prepare to enter and succeed in college.

For more information, read our fact sheet here.

Cecilia Muñoz is an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

A Latina’s Perspective on My Brother’s Keeper

As a Latina student who is pretty engaged on education issues I was generally familiar with the President’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative from a distance. Upon joining the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) as a policy and communications intern this summer, I came to fully realize and appreciate the magnitude of what this historic effort meant for me, my family, and millions of other Latinos across the country. I’ve learned many things since then—one of them being the immense value an initiative such as MBK has and what it means for future generations of Latinos, both males and females.

Blog #3It was not until I learned the sobering statistics about the significant gender gap between Hispanic males and females that I understood the weight and implications of not doing anything – of being satisfied with the status quo. Indeed, this gap follows Latino males from Pre-K through to high school and beyond. In 2009, among Latinos enrolling in college, 61 percent were women and 39 percent were men. Data also shows that Latino males have a higher risk of being disciplined in preschool, suspended or expelled in grades K-12, imprisoned, or unemployed—all of which steer them away from reaching their full potential and ensuring our country’s success.

When I envision these Latino males, the faces of my father, my brother, and my nephew appear in my mind. Without statistics at hand, I couldn’t put those numbers into perspective and paint a picture of the dismal life circumstances that many young men of color, including the Latino males in my family, face. The reality is that I live in a world where the people who I love most are at risk for becoming another statistic—if they haven’t already become one. I know the hardships of my father’s past, including not finishing college and imprisonment, and I understand the struggles my nephew will face in overcoming the challenges associated with living in a low-income household. Despite this newfound understanding of their reality, my reason to hope for a better future is tremendous.

President Obama fully realizes the dire state that all young men of color, including Latinos, might face—and while the urgency for reform is at an all-time high—he is making great strides to create a better future for all families, especially those most in need. There are currently incredible efforts being made to change the systems that have made these statistics a part of our reality in the Latino community. With the launch of MBK, President Obama hopes to help close the educational and opportunity gaps that many young men of color in this country face and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. The efforts of this initiative, including a call for more mentoring and skill-building, will end up changing the lives of millions of young people, including young men of color and their families.

This summer I was able to see some of the most passionate advocates for education reform, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools Mike Casserly, Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, and Deputy Director of the WHIEEH Marco Davis, come together in a boardroom one morning to discuss new private commitments in support of MBK. School districts and private sector corporations announced new private commitments to tackle the issues affecting all of our youth, including our young boys and men of color. The commitments made are powerful—companies like the NBA, AT&T, and Citi Foundation have pledged to provide the resources needed for social reform of this scale to take place. These private companies collectively have promised $100 million, and additionally 60 of the nation’s largest public school systems have committed to implement evidence-based plans to reduce dropout rates among other harrowing statistics. When these plans are put into action, we can continue to change the systems that our communities are struggling to maneuver through.

The scale of these commitments is unprecedented, and it is something to applaud. As Latinas, we should not hesitate to support efforts that will uplift not only our brothers, fathers, sons, and nephews, but all Americans. We must support each other through this journey of reforming society and continue our work in solidarity so that lasting change can reach all Americans, including people like my nephew and the generations of Latinos that will come after him.

As my internship comes to an end, I am deeply encouraged that the WHIEEH has placed a key emphasis on My Brother’s Keeper and will continue to move the needle forward ensuring the educational attainment for our Hispanic community—nuestra comunidad.

Written by Gladys Rosario, rising junior at University of California, Berkeley and summer intern for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics

 

Financing a College Education

Over the past year I have had the opportunity to meet with students, parents, educators and community leaders across the country to discuss the importance of education. I have seen first-hand the remarkable impact leadership, engagement and a rigorous education can have, not only on a student but on an entire community.  I have also seen the devastating impact associated with the lack of educational opportunity and access, in particular for families who strive to reach the middle class.

During a town hall discussion at a high school, I was reminded of just how critical access to information and awareness of the various financial aid resources that exist can be: in a room filled with 200 high school juniors and seniors, when asked how many had filled out the FAFSA™ form, only 3 hands went up. When asked how many were college bound, the same 3 hands went up.  When asked why so many were not thinking of college, the question of affordability was at the forefront of their hesitation.  While Latinos have made significant strides in high school completion and college enrollment, there remain challenging gaps that have resulted in only 15 percent of Latino adults graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

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