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White House convenes higher education summit

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16 2014 9:25 a.m. MST

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during an Expanding College Opportunity event in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in Washington.

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

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The White House is hosting a by-invitation summit focused on expanding college access to lower-income students. The event, which takes place on Thursday, Jan. 15, will be live streamed from the White House.

The meeting is part of an aggressive push by the White House to advance its social policy agenda outside of Congress, the Washington Post reports.

“Whenever I spoke to any group of college presidents, foundations or businesses, we made crystal clear that we are not doing a conference to do panels for panels' sake, or to talk about what everyone thinks they are already doing good,” National Economic Council director Gene Sperling told the Washington Post. “We made clear we are doing this to change the world by changing the paths of young people’s lives.”

"The summit Thursday will focus instead on improving college access for low-income students — a cause that aligns with the focus of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s new outreach to underprivileged students to encourage them to apply for and attend college," Inside Higher Ed reported. "Both President Obama and the First Lady will address college leaders in the daylong summit, according to an email sent to invitees."

“We think that it’s great that the White House is focusing on this issue,” Emily Froimson, vice president of programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed. “There’s an assumption that high-achieving low-income students are fine on their own and don’t need extra support, and that’s just not the case.”

More than 100 colleges will be represented, and those on the invitation list were pleased to be there. "The fact we were asked to come to share our partnership program tells me we're moving in the right direction," Harper College President Ken Ender said in a statement released by the college, as reported by the local Daily Herald. "Thought leaders in this country believe this is an important initiative, and that's very reassuring."

Email: eschulzke@desnews.com

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