Two college presidents from Tacoma are scheduled to be at the White House on Thursday for a day-long summit on improving college access for low-income students.
Both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are expected to speak to the gathering of more than 100 college and university presidents from around the country. University of Puget Sound President Ronald Thomas and Tacoma Community College President Pamela Transue are both scheduled to take part in the summit.
The president asked academic leaders attending the summit to bring their ideas on how to help more low-income students enroll in college – and complete their degrees.
The summit comes on the heels of protests from colleges around the country over a proposed federal college rating system that would rank their institutions based on the numbers of low-income students admitted, graduation rates and other criteria.
Recent studies from economists have found that bright students from poor families often never apply to top-tier institutions with steep tuition costs. The White House wants to hear about programs that can change that scenario.
Thomas will announce a new initiative at the University of Puget Sound that will build on existing programs at the Tacoma campus. Since 1995, the university has offered what it calls Puget Sound Access Programs, serving more than 1,000 middle school and high school students by offering enrichment programs in partnership with Tacoma Public Schools. Offerings include tutoring, a summer science and math program, mentoring by University of Puget Sound students, information on financial aid and more.
Beginning this fall, the University of Puget Sound aims to enroll between five and 10 new Access Program alumni each year, with a target of between 20 and 40 students. Thomas said in a news release that the university will expand financial aid and support “to open doors for talented local high school graduates who aspire to attend Puget Sound.”
The university pledges to meet their full financial need and offer mentoring, leadership development and individual support to help ensure that they graduate in four years.