University joins national effort to expand college access


The University of Michigan was invited to join President Obama and hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders Thursday to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action was designed to help support the president’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders and nonprofits to support students across the country to help the nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment. 

The universities were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas:

• Building networks of colleges around promoting completion.

• Creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness.

• Investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative.

• Increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

 “We are committed to strengthening opportunities and student success with our STEM initiatives with our participation in today’s summit,” U-M President Mark Schlissel said.

“Extending educational opportunities across the full breadth of society is a closely held value of the University of Michigan, and I look forward to working to advance the larger goals of the national initiative.”

UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little attended the event in Washington, D.C.

Partnering with the National College Advising Corps and the Michigan College Access Network, UM-Dearborn has committed to working with several local high schools to increase the number of seniors that complete at least two college applications and complete the FAFSA by June 30, 2016. The university will work to achieve at least a 6 percent college enrollment rate increase among these partner high schools.

“The University of Michigan-Dearborn prides itself on providing an accessible, high-quality education to students of varying means in southeast Michigan,” Little said. “I applaud President Obama for not only emphasizing the importance of a college education but providing additional federal support for low-income students to obtain a college degree and increase opportunities for a comfortable and productive life.”

Susan Dynarski, an economics, education and public policy professor at U-M who is known for her research on student loans and the interaction of inequality and education, also attended the event.

U-M is involved in many initiatives that address the areas that are the focus of the event.

In 2013, the university launched a project called REBUILD, designed to transform the teaching of STEM courses by bringing together faculty from physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics in LSA with colleagues from the School of Education. Their goal is to ensure that STEM education is evidence-based and continually refined and delivered by multigenerational teams. The project received initial support from a $2 million National Science Foundation Grant.

The president announced new steps on how his administration is helping to support these actions, including $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college.

The event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action in January.

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. Today, only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile.

In an effort to expand college access, the Obama administration has increased Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, limited student loan payments to 10 percent of income, and laid out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.

— UM-Dearborn and the White House communications office contributed to this article.


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