Obama pushes new measures to get poor students into college

BY Elizabeth Jones  January 16, 2014 at 6:47 PM EDT
Photo By Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A Regis University student studies for a Philosophy class. The White House is pushing new measures to allow poor students to have better access to higher education. Photo By Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Now in college with a full-ride scholarship, Troy Simon admitted to an audience at the White House that he couldn’t have made the jump from being unable to read at age 14 to pursuing higher education without help.

That was part of the pitch at the White House College Opportunity Summit, where Simon joined President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who met with dozens of higher education leaders to promote new measures to get students from poor families into college. As part of the summit, the White House released a report outlining models that would increase the students’ chances of entering higher education.

“You all can take simple steps that can determine whether these kids give up and drop out,” the first lady told the educators, “or step up and thrive.”

President Obama pointed out the government has a role and interest in helping students understand their potential. He promised the only way Americans win is by tapping into the potential of young adults to “not just grow the economy, but ensuring everyone has a chance to access that growth.” He added that it’s not enough to just get students into college but they must receive support to ensure they graduate.

“We’ve set a goal of training 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next ten years,” said the president. In addition to setting these standards, he pointed out that “robust on-campus cultural centers and socialization programs can help disadvantaged students settle into college life.”

Just yesterday, White House, the U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury, and the General Services Administration hosted an event called “Datapalooza,” where more than 500 of America’s entrepreneurs, software developers and education experts came together to explore new applications and services advancing higher education from free available government data.

The events came amid key changes awaiting U.S. education. Congress looks to pass the $1.1 trillion spending bill that aims to give billions to education programs such as Head Start. In addition, controversy continues over the adoption of new “Common Core” academic standards.