UIC joins Obama initiative to expand college access

Paula Allen-Meares

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares

University of Illinois at Chicago Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares today joins President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and hundreds of college presidents and higher education leaders to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action supports the president’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders and nonprofits to support students across the country, helping the U.S. reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

UIC will commit to improving recruitment and graduation rates for students who might not otherwise begin or complete a college education by working with Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), a group that serves the 2,000 women at UIC majoring in STEM fields, to increase the number of women in the WISE mentoring program by 20 percent. The program has been shown to increase graduation rates by 15 percent.

As a designated Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI), UIC is working with the AANAPISI Consortium in developing innovative and targeted education programs and strategies to support recruitment and retention of these minority students.

The AANAPISI Consortium is committed to a 2 percent increase in degrees conferred annually, increasing the number of degrees conferred to low-income AAPI students and closing the degree attainment gap for low-income AAPI students by 50 percent by 2025.

“Through programs that offer targeted mentoring and personalized support, UIC is committed to student success and strategies that will improve student recruitment, retention and graduation rates,” said Allen-Meares. “We welcome the opportunity to share UIC’s commitment with the president and first lady at today’s White House College Opportunity Day of Action.”

Today’s participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion; creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness; investing in high school counselors as part of the first lady’s Reach Higher initiative; or increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The president will announce new steps to support these actions, including $10 million to promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program to improve low-income students’ access to college.  Today’s event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action; it will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on Jan. 14, 2014.

Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class, the White House said. Today, only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile.

To expand college access, the Obama administration increased Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, limited student loan payments to 10 percent of income, and laid out a plan to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.

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