Providence Schools, Rhode Island College Highlight Commitment to Expand College Access

Today, Providence Schools Superintendent Dr. Susan Lusi and Rhode Island College President Dr. Nancy Carriuolo will join President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden along with hundreds of college presidents and other 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 helps to support the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

Providence is one of 55 cities participating in Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment. As partners in the mobilization effort, Lusi and Carriuolo and their respective organizations are taking on the goal of increasing the number of residents with a postsecondary degree. Among other strategies is the piloting of a Latino student success cohort of recent PPSD grads through Rhode Island College’s Learning for Life peer-based support program.

Other stakeholders in Community Partnerships for Attainment include the Providence Children and Youth Cabinet and approximately 20 others across public and private higher education, community-based organizations, municipal government, public sector, policymakers, and businesses.

“Our collaborative work through Lumina Foundation is an enormous opportunity for Providence Schools to rapidly accelerate our student outcomes,” said Lusi. “The chance to attend this White House summit and share the foundations of our work is an honor, and I look forward to representing our city and our state, while learning more about concurrent efforts around the country.”

“We value the Obama Administration’s renewed focus on quality, accessible higher education. Programs such as Rhode Island College’s Learning for Life are critical in providing the support students need to stay on track and succeed in a college environment,” said Carriuolo. “We are delighted to be working with Providence Public Schools as part of a continuum of academic opportunity and achievement.”

The effort is to be guided by what the state K-16 Board of Education has identified as “leaks in the pipeline” from eighth grade to higher education degree attainment with a focus on early intervention efforts to better prepare secondary school students for higher education success, while supporting youth and adults to complete their degrees.  The overall goal of this collaborative effort is to see an increase by 2% (approximately 52,000 adults across the 55 cities, aged 25-64) in the number of underserved students who complete a postsecondary degree by December 2016.

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, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The President will announce new steps on how his Administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college.  Today’s event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on January 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.  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. In an effort to expand college access, the Obama Administration has 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 an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.