A few surprises at the president's higher ed summit

Tim Goral's picture

Higher education leaders are generally responding positively to President Obama's recent "College Opportunity Summit," as the president and first lady reinforced their ongoing commitment to improving potential college students' access and success. At the event -- which featured more than 100 college presidents who signed pledges that their institutions will help with the effort--Michelle Obama recounted her own powerful story of perseverance and success as she noted how deeply the nation's leading couple's life stories are "rooted in education."

While the summit was another example of the president's clear commitment to improving higher education in America, a few surprises emerged from the gathering. One was the under-representation of community college leaders (only 10 percent) at a gathering meant to highlight the college-going issues of "lower-income Americans." Although community colleges enroll the overwhelming majority of students in this category, critics felt that they were given "short shrift," and that the summit was "dominated by elite institutions." They noted that too much of the focus was on the phenomenon of "undermatching," where high-achieving, low-income students qualify for first tier schools, but attend lesser ones and have lower graduation rates.

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