Union College announces commitment to expand college access at White House event

Today, Union College and President Marcia Hawkins, Ph.d., will join President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden along with hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the President’s commitment to partner 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.

Union College was invited to participate in this event due to its involvement with the Yes We Must Coalition, a three-year old organization of small, non-profit, private colleges and universities where 50 percent or more of each campus undergraduate enrollment is Pell-eligible whose purpose in organizing is to share resources, information and promising practices to improve the success of low-income and first-generation students and to be a voice for our students in the policy arena. As a member of Yes We Must, Union College has committed to producing 1,000-additional college graduates by 2025.

“It is a privilege and honor to be asked to participate in this event,” said Hawkins. “Union College has a long history helping first-generation students. Part of our mission is to enrich the economic growth and health of the Appalachian region, and the foundation in doing so is quality higher education.”

Today’s participants 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, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The President will announce new steps on how his Administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college.  Today’s 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 on January 14, 2014.

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.

Today’s summit will be streamed live online beginning at 9 a.m. ET. To watch the day’s proceedings, please visit: http://WhiteHouse.gov/college-opportunity.