MACC Presidents Demonstrate Leadership at White House College Opportunity Summit

MACC member presidents were an impressive force among the college presidents who attended a January 16 White House summit on expanding college access. Among the 80+ presidents in attendance, 5 from Massachusetts demonstrated notable leadership in providing models for expanding educational opportunity among low-income and other underrepresented students.

Attending the summit, hosted by President Obama and Michelle Obama, were the presidents of Amherst College, Bunker Hill Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Northeastern University, and Smith College—all MACC members. The summit was part of the Administration’s effort to expand educational opportunities as a means of helping more Americans enter the middle class.

One initiative President Obama singled out for praise was Bunker Hill Community College’s intensive math and English preparation program, which provides academic support for incoming students who need extra help. In response to the Obamas’ call for commitments to action, Bunker Hill pledged to double the program to serve at least 900 incoming students a year.

Other leaders in attendance also pledged to introduce or expand programs designed to increase college access and success. Amherst president Carolyn A. Martin said that the college will devote more resources to enrolling Native American students, one of a number of initiatives to combat social and economic inequality.

Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella said that the school will provide advising and full tuition scholarships (a commitment of more than $1 million annually) to 25–30 nontraditional-aged students a year. Other efforts include a program to increase college access among low-income students from Western MA, expanded scholarships for academically promising students with financial need, and support for college access and affordability for first-generation college students through Pasquerella’s role as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Quality, Efficiency, and Finance.

President Joseph E. Aoun of Northeastern University said the school will continue to expand its local scholarship program, through which low-income students from nearby neighborhoods receive full tuition. The program will provide $7 million in funding for 150 students in 2014.

Smith president Kathleen McCartney said the college will team with the nonprofit Posse Foundation to help low-income students complete degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Smith, the first women’s college to launch an engineering school, will enroll 10 students from New York City public schools who are pursuing STEM fields.

Some presidents who were unable to attend the summit also answered the call for a commitment to action. Tufts University said it would launch a financial aid program to help high school seniors take a “gap” year to do community service before enrolling. The goal is to allow a more diverse group of students to take time off to provide service while becoming more prepared for college life.

Photo: President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama and a college student, delivers remarks during the College Opportunity Summit on Jan. 16, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)