FACT SHEET: Improving College Opportunity

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This past January, the President and First Lady issued a call to action answered by over 100 college presidents and 40 nonprofits who announced new commitments to increase college opportunity for all Americans.  Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class. The President and First Lady are committed to doing more in partnership with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

As part of their ongoing commitment, today the White House is announcing that the President and First Lady will host its next Summit on College Opportunity on December 4, 2014. The goal of this conference will build on the work  from 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.

In advance of this Summit, the Administration has continued to make progress toward building K-12, higher education, and community partnerships to support college success. Just this week, the White House hosted a meeting to strengthen college readiness for academically underprepared students, marking the final of three events over the past three weeks to follow up on actions taken as part of the College Opportunity effort launched by the President and First Lady this past January.  On July 28, the White House and the Harvard Graduate School of Education convened leaders from the K-12 and higher education fields to explore strategies to improve the effectiveness of college advising and support school counselors.  And on July 31, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education brought together teams of school district and college leaders from across the country for a working session focused on expanding effective partnerships at the local level to increase college enrollment and early readiness for college-level work.  

These events 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.

Coming out of these events, today the White House is also announcing several new private and public sector commitments in our efforts to expand the College Opportunity initiative:

  • 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. 

  • 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, 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. 

More detailed information on these new commitments are below.

New Community College Commitments to Strengthen College Readiness for Academically Underprepared Students:

When students enter college underprepared for core subjects such as math and English they are far less likely to succeed. Too many students in developmental courses never move onto credit-bearing work, therefore wasting time and resources of students and institutions with no bearing on a student’s goals or success. States, postsecondary systems, and colleges are responding to this challenge by reassessing and redesigning their remediation strategies. At their first College Opportunity Summit in January, a number of community college presidents joined the President and First Lady to commit to dramatically improving success rates in remedial education. This week’s event provided an opportunity for these leaders – and others with similar goals – to discuss their progress and the challenges they face, in their efforts to reduce the need for remediation through curricular alignment; redesign assessment and placement; and improve developmental education design and delivery. More details on individual commitments can be found HERE.

·         14 community colleges making new commitments to strengthen efforts around college readiness: Since January, fourteen additional community colleges made commitments to implement strategies to help improve college persistence and completion for students who enter college academically underprepared. Efforts will include reducing the need for excess developmental courses through better curricular alignment; redesigning assessment and placement to more accurately identify students’ academic needs; and improving design and delivery to accelerate student progress, ensure the relevancy of instruction, and provide better student supports. Community colleges making new commitments include:

o   Borough of Manhattan Community College (New York, NY)

o   Bunker Hill Community College (Charlestown, MA)

o   College of the Ouachitas (Malvern, AR)

o   Davidson County Community College (Thomasville, North Carolina)

o   Eastern Gateway Community College (Steubenville, OH)

o   Edmonds Community College (Lynnwood, WA)

o   Gaston College (Dallas, NC)

o   Lee College (Baytown, TX)

o   Los Rios Community College District (Sacramento, CA)

o   Lower Columbia College (Longview, WA)

o   Macomb Community College (Warren, MI)

o   Passaic County Community College (Paterson, NJ)

o   Umpqua Community College (Roseburg, OR)

o   West Hills College Lemoore (Lemoore, CA)

New Commitments from the Field to Strengthen College Readiness:

This week’s college readiness event also featured commitments from the Department of Education and other private partnerships aimed at supporting and furthering the efforts of colleges across the country to build better strategies to improve success for these students. Commitments include:

·         Launching the new $10 million Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR) funded by the Institute for Education (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education: IES recently awarded $10 million to the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University and the social policy research organization MDRC to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college readiness efforts across the nation.  The new center will focus on documenting current practices of developmental education and associated reform efforts across the nation and rigorously evaluating the effects of innovative assessment and instructional practices on student success in order to share what works to improve outcomes for academically underprepared students.

·         Developing and scaling better tools for developmental math with the Khan Academy: The Khan Academy will offer new technology-based solutions customized to improve student success in developmental math.  The Khan Academy is adapting and improving their developmental math content and algorithms to better meet the needs of developmental math students and partnering with colleges to pilot innovative uses of the KA mastery based learning platform.  Khan Academy will work with EdReady to provide a placement test diagnostic to allow students to identify their skills gaps with links to math exercises designed by Khan Academy, so that students can do a targeted review customized to their math needs, at no cost. Soon after launching this effort, Khan will partner with colleges to test these features in the field, providing critical feedback needed to improve and adapt these resources to help more learners.

·         $5 million from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, partnering with MDRC, the Ohio Board of Regents, and City University of New York (CUNY). This partnership will support replication of CUNY’s successful Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for as many as 2,000 community college students in Ohio.  Research by MDRC and CUNY has demonstrated that the ASAP program, which offers a comprehensive array of services and supports over a three-year period to help more students graduate sooner, has been demonstrated to increase the graduation rates of low-income community college students with developmental (or remedial) needs in New York City. This new effort will evaluate how models like ASAP can be adapted and scaled by other states and colleges across the country.

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. For example: 

·         Improving the effectiveness of college advising and supporting school counselors:

On July 28, in partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the White House and the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative convened over 120 attendees from nonprofit, K-12, higher education, business, and philanthropy to discuss best practices around professional development and training for counselors; research and innovative programming for counselors; and college counseling tools. In addition to highlighting progress on college advising and completion commitments from nine January Summit participants, the event focused on strategies to build greater support for school counselors including a new commitment from San Diego State University (SDSU) to: create a College and Career Readiness division within their counselor training program to develop programming at the national and local level so school counselors are able to improve college access and completion among students; develop a certificate program in school counseling and leadership administration; as well as host another follow-up summit on the West Coast. 

·      STEM: A wide range of foundations, non-profits, and college and university presidents responded to the President and First Lady’s call in January by announcing new steps 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.  To build on this momentum, the White House is planning a series of events this fall to bring together those who made commitments around STEM in January and to grow the coalition of participants.  These meetings will be working sessions focused on sharing best practices and discussing challenges, successes, lessons learned, and how to achieve results for more students completing STEM degrees. 

·      FAFSA Completion Initiative: In March, the President and First Lady launched a new FAFSA Completion Initiative to help schools identify which students have completed their forms and target efforts to increase completion.  FAFSA completion is an important step toward college enrollment.

·      GEAR UP: In May, the Department of Education announced the availability of $75 million in GEAR UP grants that will support efforts to develop and evaluate best practices around college fit and readiness.  

·      Near-Peer Mentoring: In July, the Department of Education launched a new pilot aimed at leveraging work-study jobs to support near-peer mentoring, a model with promising evidence that place college students into college counseling and mentoring efforts, in partnership with schools districts, to raise awareness about college and financial aid among high school students and help expand access and strengthen the transition to college.

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