Hundreds of college presidents and business leaders — including UNC Chancellor Carol Folt — gathered at the White House Thursday for a higher education summit to address expanding college opportunities.
Folt, N.C. State University Chancellor Randy Woodson and Davidson College President Carol Quillen were among those invited to participate in panel discussions.
President Barack Obama announced in a speech at the summit that more than 100 colleges and 40 organizations had made commitments to help more young people not only go to, but also graduate from college.
UNC-CH pledged at least $8 million to help achieve these goals.
“More than ever, a college degree is the surest path to a stable, middle-class life,” Obama said. “Unfortunately, today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school, and by their mid-20s, only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree.”
UNC committed $4 million to doubling the size of the school’s Chancellor’s Science Scholars program, which aims to increase diversity among low-income students who want to earn higher-level science degrees. The program will expand from 20 to 40 students.
UNC also pledged $4 million toward improving the graduation rates of undergraduates — especially first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students — by enhancing various support programs. Currently, 82 percent of UNC undergraduates earn a diploma in four years.
The University will also expand the Carolina College Advising Corps, which provides college advising for high school students.
“UNC has been devoted to the promise of access and has encouraged talented, hard-working students to aim high,” Folt said in a statement.
“We are pleased that the timing of this White House initiative coordinates with our University’s plans to continue that promise.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the meeting discussed improving graduation rates among students in remedial classes, raising standards in K-12 education and increasing interactions between high school students and universities.
Both Obama and Michelle Obama highlighted their personal experiences in their speeches, saying that they would not have been able to succeed without the support systems from their universities.
“The fact is that right now we are missing out on so much potential because so many promising young people … simply don’t believe that college can be a reality for them,” Michelle Obama said.
Obama advocated for greater opportunity and upward mobility.
“You can be born into nothing and work your way into something extraordinary.”
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