Obama to Host Education Leaders

Tying economic mobility to college completion

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Jan. 15, 2014.

The White House will host college presidents, nonprofit and business leaders at a summit Thursday that ties President Barack Obama’s economic mobility agenda to his goal of increasing college completion rates in America.

By leveraging public-private partnerships, Obama is hoping to move the needle on his higher education goals without relying on an often-gridlocked Congress. And by homing in on low-income students, Obama is looking to tackle issues of both education and income inequality, given that children born into the lowest income brackets are more likely to rise out of poverty after obtaining a college degree.

“We do not have a more clear ladder of economic mobility than the attainment of a college degree,” Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, told reporters Wednesday on a conference call.

Over 100 colleges and 40 nonprofit and private organizations and businesses are making policy pledges, and representatives from many of them are set to attend the summit, where the president and First Lady Michelle Obama will call on the groups to expand low-income students’ access to college. Schools and businesses were asked to make commitments to reaching that goal by focusing on ways to connect students to the right schools, increase the pool of students preparing for college and improving test preparation and college advising.

Administration officials contend that by reaching out to low-income students before they reach high school, and by getting high achieving low-income students to apply to schools that best match their abilities, more students will not only be able to attend college, but finish. High achieving students whose families are among the lowest 25% of earners graduate from college at the same rate as low-achieving students from the top 25%, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute,

“We are a country that does not believe the outcomes of your life should be overly determined by the accident of your birth,” Sperling said. “But statistics show that we need to do more.”

To that end, Ivy League schools including Harvard and Yale plan to reach out to low-income students through social media and joint summits in areas where students have been less likely to apply. Historically black colleges and universities (often referred to as HBCUs), which already educate a high proportion of low-income students, are looking to serve as models for other universities.

“Most HBCUs have north of 85-90% students on financial aid,” said Dr. John Wilson, the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta. “Most of students that come to Morehouse are on financial aid. … We can advise on this subject.”

Despite the pledges, reform remains a tall order. Bigger challenges like the rising cost of tuition and the impact on low-income financial aid programs are being touched on only lightly, if at all, and solutions for the most part require congressional action.

“We have no desire to have a conference for conferences sake,” Sperling said. “This is about action and increasing things people are going to do to help low income kids succeed in college.”


Liberals are screwing America's college kids and poor kids even don't realize it.

Every single grant/scholarship/interest subsidy from the Government has been neutralized by tuition hikes EVERY single time.

Many times, a textbook costing over hundred Dollars can't be sold following year because the professor would tell the students to buy new version or a different book altogether.

Americans are rightly upset about ever escalating medical care costs, especially since inflation has been steady at less than 3% for more than a decade now.

Has anyone done any study on the rate of college education cost inflation in the same time frame?

Like I said, why would liberal media expose one of their own, liberal college establishments? 


The Affordable College Textbook Act in the House and the Senate that would create free textbooks for college courses.  Obviously, there's more to college costs than textbooks, but they are currently averaging more than $1000 a year - not insignificant. Here's a quick blog on the bill, with a link to the text; http://infojustice.org/archives/31925


I heard about this "summit" on the radio this morning, and all I could think was, "Oh, boy. Here they go again." They don't want to have a conference simply for the sake of having one, but that's exactly what they are doing.

As I've said elsewhere, flooding our labor market with college graduates will do nothing for our economy except DEVALUE college degrees further and generate even more student loan debt. Simply producing more college graduates is not going to make us more competitive with those nations that began to out-distance a few decades back. As I write this, I'm in the midst of taking a break from a stack of final degree audits I've been working for the past couple of weeks, looking at another pile of graduation applications that I've had to DENY ("No, you're not graduating")...often because the students have not be able to pass whatever math course is required for the degree program. How exactly is sending MORE people to college going to fix THAT problem, Mr. President?

Those of us in the Higher Ed administrative offices have been hearing about the so-called "completion agenda" for years. What does it mean? Basically, we should continue to dummy down our curricula so that we can produce more graduates. College curricula have been dummied down drastically over the past few decades, and it's actually helped put us in the quagmire we're in right now.

A  little more information about myself: I'm a black male approaching his fortieth birthday. I started college in 1992 (a non-HBCU); on paper, I was a member of an "at-risk" group. I graduated after eight consecutive semesters, earning 137 semester hours of credit (because I went to college for love of learning) with a pretty decent GPA. In my higher ed career, I've worked at on-line schools, traditional four-year schools, an HBCU, and a community college...serving in just about every student service-related capacity outside of financial aid. I've seen quite a bit, and certain things have become very apparent to me.

First, much of what is taught in what should be the first two years of college is material that used to be taught FOR FREE (or via tax dollars) in high schools. Secondly, things are going very wrong in high schools because so many students require remediation during the first year or two of college. Third, corporate interests have too great an influence on our educational agenda at every academic level. Jobs that could be done with a high school diploma--or even an eighth-grade education--a couple of generations ago now require  a college education. Corporate conglomerates--many of which were FOUNDED by people without college educations--continue to sell this nonsense about having a well-educated workforce...even though this nation somehow was THE world leader in virtually all fields after World War II. Having a bachelor's degree, though, isn't going to make you a better floor-person at Wal-Mart...or even at Amazon.

Also, college, like the military, is not now and never has been for everyone. This doesn't mean that people who aren't college-bound are sub-human. However, to listen to the President, to Smurfy Sperling, and recruiters at many colleges, one would believe that college is the ONLY path  to success in life. It IS a way to mount massive debt...especially in an economy like the one this President has presided over. Like I've also said, if the President wants to stand up for something, he should be standing up for the idea that no American citizen should have to have a college degree to earn a living wage!

Then there are the ethics associate with working in higher ed. Every student services professional knows that every year they will see hundreds of NEW students, many of whom will never earn a degree or credential of any kind...but these students will mount crippling loan debt and flunk or otherwise stop out. A year later, the student service folks will get an edict from the DEAN or VICE-PRESIDENT telling them to "reach out" to these stop-out students, to get them back in classes, to boost numbers, and hopefully get them to a degree.

If we want to get back on top, we can't wait until kids are college-age. The corporations that preach the value of an educated workforce can start placing their tools of technology in our high schools.  Network Security and "Principles of the Internet" can be taught in HIGH SCHOOL. Culinary management and hospitality management can be taught in HIGH SCHOOL....and so on and so forth. Every eighteen year-old high school graduate should be prepared to enter the workforce because "that used to be us." We're a long way from that today.  The corporations that want a well-educated workforce should be able to pull those people right out of our high schools. The teenagers in the countries who outrank us in academic achievement are WAY ahead of ours before they reach college age.

Anyway, I apologize for the length of my rant, but if the readers don't do anything else, start taking your educational institutions back from the corporations.


The science deniers should have a field day with all of the intellectual elitists gathered together.


@sacredh I bet you couldn't find a real scientist in that crowd with a magnifying glass...

but if you look for community organizers... that would be another story