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Whittier College Announces Commitment to Expand College Access at White House Event

President Herzberger at White HouseToday, Whittier College President Sharon Herzberger will join President Barack Obama, the First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe 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 Second 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.  

Whittier College has pledged to take steps to accomplish this goal by building on current successful efforts in partnerships with local high schools, private foundations, and community colleges.  

“I am very pleased that the White House is focusing on the important issue of college access and enhancing the competitiveness of this nation by creating college campuses that reflect socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our country. At Whittier College we see ourselves as a model for the nation on how to enroll and graduate a diverse student population,” said Herzberger.

Whittier College has committed to expand its partnerships with local school districts by working with students enrolled at El Rancho High School in neighboring Pico Rivera, a city with a 12% college graduation rate among its 97% Latino population.

In addition, Whittier also pledged to develop programs designed to lower the cost of college and increase four-year college graduation rates among socio-economically challenged students.  With significant experience in successfully educating underrepresented transfer students from community colleges, Whittier’s next commitment involved developing a low-cost, high quality, honors AA/AS degree to be offered in conjunction with community colleges and partnering with American Honors to provide academic support and transfer advising.

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.

In response and as part of Whittier's goal to increase the number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates, Whittier faculty have developed two new programs, in public health and in nutrition sciences.  In addition, Whittier’s Board of Trustees has approved the complete renovation of the science facilities, set for completion in the fall of 2016. The College anticipates enrolling 15 to 20% more STEM majors as a result.

President Obama 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.