President McGuire Participates in White House Summit on Expanding Access to Higher Education

President McGuire Participates in White House Summit on Expanding Access to Higher Education

Trinity President Patricia McGuire was invited to participate in the White House College Opportunity Day of Action, a major summit of college and university presidents, K-12 educators, and business and nonprofit leaders convened by President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on December 4. During the Summit, which focused on expanding access to higher education and improving completion of college degrees, President McGuire was featured on a panel, “Customizing Completion: The Campus Perspective.” Each higher ed institution participating in the White House Summit made commitments to expand access to education. President McGuire announced two new commitments at the Summit, both focused on STEM: One commitment is a “Partnership with DC Public Schools to Improve Persistence and Completion for Students Intending to Major in Nursing, Other Healthcare and STEM Fields”; the second commitment is to “Increase STEM Enrollment, Persistence and Completion for Low Income African American and Latina Women.”

Read President McGuire’s reflections on the White House Summit and Trinity’s commitments to expanding access to higher education on her blog: White House Summit on College Opportunity and View from the Summit.

President McGuire was interviewed by many reporters about the White House Summit, resulting in extensive and lead quotes in: The Washington Post; POLITICO; two articles in the Chronicle of Education; Marketplace Radio, broadcast on public radio stations. Below are excerpts of the media coverage.

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Washington Post: Obama Gathers Pledges for College Access

by Nick Anderson, December 4, 2014

Higher-education leaders from across the country are pledging to take steps to widen college opportunity and help more students finish degrees, an initiative President Obama will promote at a gathering in Washington on Thursday. The event will build on a summit Obama hosted in January at which he gathered similar commitments for college access from more than 100 colleges and 40 related organizations. This gathering, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, is expected to be more than twice as big as the first. And it will be somewhat less exclusive.

For instance, Trinity Washington University, which serves a large number of women from low-income families in the capital city, was invited to participate Thursday. In January, Trinity was not invited. That omission, at the time, provoked criticism from Trinity President Pat McGuire, who said the White House was overlooking the expertise of many educators steeped in the challenges facing low-income students.

This time, McGuire plans to speak on a panel about college completion. Trinity is making two pledges: to team with D.C. public schools to help more students obtain degrees in nursing and other fields related to health and science; and to grow enrollment in science and technology fields among African American and Latina women from low-income families. … Read complete article.

POLITICO:  White House Spotlights College Completion

by Stephanie Simon, December 4, 2014

It happens far too often: A student fresh from the D.C. public schools arrives on the campus of Trinity Washington University planning to major in nursing — only to find out that she’ll have to pass several advanced math classes to get that degree.

“Students have no idea what nursing entails. They’re flabbergasted to know that they have to be able to do calculus,” said Patricia McGuire, the president of Trinity Washington. Many students gamely give it a go, only to flunk their first math class and drop out of school, disheartened and adrift.

That’s the type of disconnect that President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan hope to address with Thursday’s star-studded College Opportunity Summit — which will open with a pledge of $40 million in new federal investment.The event will bring together hundreds of federal officials, college presidents, nonprofit administrators and corporate CEOs to discuss strategies for boosting college completion rates. It’s a follow-up to a similar summit last January, when presidents of more than 80 colleges and universities pledged to do more to help poor students attend college. …

… At the first summit, the participants also made pledges. Some were bold promises to expand financial aid and bring more Pell grant recipients to campus. Others, however, were recycled commitments already in the works for several years, like a redesign of remedial courses. The White House on Thursday released a fat report detailing the progress each institution has made on its commitment. In the end, though, it has little leverage other than such reports to ensure compliance, as the pledges are all voluntary.

That’s part of the reason why Trinity Washington’s McGuire is also careful to keep her optimism in check.

Her university is making two commitments. First, McGuire plans to connect her faculty with D.C. public school teachers and counselors to help them understand exactly what’s expected of students when they arrive on campus. That way, they can more effectively advise students about which academic classes they must take — and which skills they must master — if they hope to pursue a career in nursing.

“Students need to start at a much earlier age to realize that it’s not just that they go to college and then they’ll get a job. It takes a lot more planning,” McGuire said.

Trinity Washington is also committing to create new scholarships that will cover the full cost of tuition, room, board and intensive academic advising for students majoring in STEM fields.

But to make that pledge a reality, McGuire will need to find benefactors willing to fund the scholarships. And that’s where her caution comes in. While she supports the concept of the summit, she is frustrated that neither the White House nor the Education Department will announce substantial new funding to help colleges achieve their commitments.

“The perception that every college and university is wealthy and fat and can fund it themselves is just not true, especially for those of us who serve very, very impoverished students,” she said. “They asked us to quantify how many more students will graduate if we do x, y or z — but they didn’t ask us how much it costs. If it becomes so expensive to graduate an individual student, institutions will walk away from their commitments. And then this does just become a photo op.”

Marketplace: Colleges Pledge to Graduate More Low-income Students

by Amy Scott, December 4, 2014. Broadcast on Marketplace Morning Report on public radio stations across the country.

Hundreds of college leaders gathered in Washington, D.C. Thursday, armed with ideas to tackle one of higher education’s thorniest issues. Just 1 in 10 people from low-income families has a college degree by age 25, according to the White House,  compared to half of people from wealthier families. This is the second summit the Obama Administration has held this year that focuses on getting more low-income kids across the college finish line.

Among the participants is Pat McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, in Washington, D.C., where only around 35-40 percent of the school’s low-income students graduate on time. The college aims to raise that to 60 percent. One step is a new partnership with D.C. Public Schools to better prepare students in math.

“We get a lot of students who want to be nurses, but they have no idea how much math and science nurses have to have, so they’re unable to do well in those courses,” McGuire says. “If we could prepare students better starting in middle school and high school, we’d have better completion rates in college.” …

Trinity Washington University’s Pat McGuire had been critical of the Obama Administration’s previous efforts. The first summit in January favored Ivy League colleges and other elite schools, she says.

“Just because a school is wealthy and prestigious doesn’t mean they’ll do a good job with a low-income student,” says McGuire.

And just because hundreds of college leaders pledge to improve college completion rates doesn’t mean it will be easy to move the needle. The issues that get between students and college degrees have never been more complex or expensive to resolve.  Read and listen to complete story.

Chronicle of Higher Education: White House Summit on College Opportunity, Take 2: Bigger, Broader, but Still Secretive

by Kelly Field, December 3, 2014

Washington: When college leaders convene here on Thursday for the second Summit on College Opportunity, they’ll notice a few changes from the inaugural event, held in January. Most obvious will be the size of the event. Twice as many people are expected to attend the second summit, which has been moved from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to accommodate the crowd.

Less visible, but equally significant, is how the guest list came together. For the first summit, the White House approached certain colleges and asked them to submit commitments to expand college access; for the second, it issued a broad call for proposals, inviting all institutions to apply. While not everyone who responded got an invitation, many more college leaders did this time around. …

Sidelined No Longer:  In January the commitments ranged from “small bore” to “sweeping,” as the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, put it…. The guest list, which included more than 100 colleges and 40 nonprofit groups, featured representatives from nearly every type of institution (for-profit colleges weren’t invited). Those who attended said they left feeling inspired and motivated to act. But elite private institutions were overrepresented, and some community and lesser-known private colleges felt that they had been given short shrift. They grumbled that the administration was overlooking their longstanding contributions to access in favor of “new” efforts by more prestigious colleges.

Among the loudest critics at the time was Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, a Roman Catholic institution of 2,500 students less than four miles from the White House. In an opinion piece in The Chronicle, she argued that the White House “only wanted colleges that the administration could take credit for goading into action.”

“The planners missed a great opportunity to bring together old practitioners and new promisers,” she wrote.

Ms. McGuire met with White House officials after the event to voice her concerns. This time around, she got an invitation. In an interview on Tuesday, a White House official said the administration had deliberately tried to include all sectors of higher education in the second summit. He promised a “broadly representative” event….

Ms. McGuire said she was pleased to be included this time, but she still wished the event weren’t so shrouded in secrecy. As with the first summit, the White House has admonished attendees not to talk to reporters until after the event.

“They’re running the show, so they’re entitled to control their message,” she said. “But when the message is that we want more colleges and universities to make access possible, I don’t see anything secret about that.”

“I keep wondering,” she added, “why it has to feel competitive and exclusive when everybody needs to be doing this.”  Read complete article.

Chronicle of Higher Education: At the White House Summit, 3 Things That Worked — and 2 That Didn’t

by Max Lewontin, December 5, 2014

With an increased focus on the barriers that keep many students from enrolling in or graduating from college, the second White House Summit on College Opportunity invited a broader range of college leaders, pre­college educators, and organizations to the table.

After the first such event, in January, the White House faced criticism from educators—particularly at community colleges and minority-serving institutions—who argued that the invitation-only summit had done little to address issues of college access for nontraditional, first-generation, and low-income students. Thursday’s event was, in some ways, a response to those concerns. Did the White House succeed in making its second summit more diverse and distinct? The Chronicle asked three attendees what worked and what could be improved next time around.

What Worked:  A broader range of institutions. One of the biggest criticisms of January’s gathering was the relatively elite group of institutions invited to the summit. “I think they really tried this time to be more inclusive, and it will be even bigger next year,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, which serves a large number of women of color and low-income students in Washington.

Ms. McGuire, who was among the critics of the guest list for the January event, said she appreciated the chance to converse with leaders of a wider range of institutions—both those that already serve a more-diverse group of students and those working toward that goal.

“It’s very clear that our national leaders have personal passion on these issues, it is good to see them up close and personal, and see the fire in their eyes about this,” she said. …

What Needs Improvement: Not enough talk about cost. A comment by Michelle Obama, Ms. McGuire said, was hotly debated by attendees. “We need to do as much as we can with the resources we have,” Ms. Obama said.

But Ms. McGuire said institutions like Trinity, which serve a broad range of students with limited financial resources, needed a clearer picture of what financial support the Obama administration and the Education Department could provide.

“Many of us that are not elite institutions are stretching our resources and are being asked to do more and more and more without raising prices,” she said. Investing in new laboratories and technology, she added, is a particular hardship. “Everybody understands the budget situation,” she said, “but it’s unrealistic to ask about doing more without talking about cost.”

Rhetoric or commitment? Is the summit a once-a-year event or part of a sustained commitment to helping a broader group of students? That concern remains….

Ms. McGuire said she had hoped for more discussion between institutions and the various nonprofit and business-world officials than the brief breakout sessions offered.

“There’s so much knowledge that you don’t want to miss the opportunity to soak up all the wisdom in the room,” she said, suggesting that the summits could expand to include regional conferences with college administrators who are closer to the ground than are presidents and nonprofit leaders.  “I don’t think there’s a lack of partnership, but we left feeling hungry,” she said. “Maybe that’s a good thing.”  Read complete article.