Oberlin College has launched a new partnership as a result of a White House summit that college President Marvin Krislov attended on Thursday.
The summit, led by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, was focused on increasing college opportunities for disadvantaged and traditionally underserved students. It followed a series of smaller meetings between the White House and college presidents.
Krislov said, as part of increased efforts to extend opportunities to students, the college has partnered with Raise Labs, a national organization supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that allows students to earn money, starting in ninth grade, based on school and life achievements.
The awards, known as “micro-scholarships,” allow students to earn money for getting good grades, participating in community service or playing sports. Those students can then use the money for a college education.
Krislov said Oberlin College has provided support to low-income and disadvantaged students for decades. The college has a program to provide Oberlin High School graduates with free tuition, and 80 percent of the college population is receiving need-based financial support.
“Oberlin has done an enormous amount in terms of providing access,” he said.
Krislov said he was encouraged by Thursday’s summit, during which Obama spoke to college and community leaders.
As part of his speech, Obama said his administration is focused on not just growing the economy but giving people the opportunity to work at high-paying jobs with benefits. He asked for support from college and business leaders to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged to receive higher education.
“Everybody here is participating, I believe, because you know that college graduation has never been more valuable than it is today. Unemployment for Americans with a college degree is more than a third lower than the national average. Incomes — twice as high as those without a high school diploma,” he said. “College is not the only path to success. We’ve got to make sure that more Americans of all ages are getting the skills that they need to access the jobs that are out there right now. But, more than ever, a college degree is the surest path to a stable middle-class life.”
Obama told college officials that his administration has called for clearer, higher standards in schools. A goal has been set to train 100,000 new math and science teachers over the next 10 years, he said.
He praised organizations like the College Board for making it easier for students to apply to more schools for free. He also mentioned the University of Chicago’s $10 million College Success Initiative, which will reach 10,000 high schools over the next five years.
“We’ve taken new steps to help students stay in school, and today the high school dropout rate is the lowest it has been in 40 years — something that’s rarely advertised,” he said. “The dropout rate among Hispanic students, by the way, has been cut in half over the last decade.”
The summit focused on ways to further expand opportunities to students, with a variety of panel discussions, including discussions on enrolling more low-income students, according to a news release from the White House.
The summit ended with four goals for college and community leaders — to connect more low-income students to the college that fits their needs, to intervene earlier to increase the pool of students preparing for college, to level the playing field for students needing SAT/ACT test preparation and college advising and to strengthen programs to ensure students academically underprepared can progress throughout their academic careers.
Krislov said the efforts will be ongoing, with more meetings scheduled between college and community leaders to address the problem.
“They’re very committed to this, and this is going to be a centerpiece,” he said. “It’s an economic issue as well as an education issue, and there’s a link.”