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President Obama invites college leaders to White House summit


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Since taking office in 2008, President Barack Obama has made reforming the country's  higher education system one of his administration's top priorities. Just days after U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan took to Twitter to moderate an online discussion about college affordability, Obama will host academic leaders from colleges and universities across the country at a White House summit on strategies to make college more accessible to students from lower-income families, Inside Higher Ed reported.

Building bridges
The president's decision to invite more than 100 college and university officials to the White House, might at first glance appear to be a jumping off point for discussion of his his oft-criticized college rating system, as some of that proposal's fiercest critics will be in attendance. However, while this initiative is sure to come up during the one-day summit, it is not meant to be its focus.

Instead, the administration plans to assess the worrisome situation of undermatching, a phenomenon in which talented students from lower-income families fail to apply to colleges at which they would be best suited. It is believed that reducing undermatching could not only expand educational opportunities to students from less privileged backgrounds, but also help colleges diversify their student bodies.

Commitment to action
According to The Washington Post, some experts are skeptical of the impact that the summit will have. However, Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, told the news source that Obama and his administration expect concrete commitments and plans for action from every attendee to improve college accessibility.

"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," said Sperling. "We made clear we are doing this to change the world by changing the paths of young people's lives."

Many students from lower-income families who are preparing for college need additional assistance to realize their educational ambitions and to embark upon satisfying, rewarding careers. Although it is too early to speculate on the outcomes of the summit, the need to expand educational opportunities to people from all socio-economic classes is a pressing concern for America's future.

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