NIU, Regional P-20 Network announce commitment to expand college access

ObamaWashington, D.C. – A delegation led by Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker representing the Northern Illinois Regional P-20 Network is joining President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders Thursday to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

White House College Opportunity Day of Action 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 Northern Illinois P-20 Network is making the following six commitments as part of this effort:

  1. Develop a comprehensive menu of financial literacy activities for P-20 students and families;
  2. Assess student support services to identify gaps and develop needed interventions;
  3. Embark on a regional peer mentoring initiative for 400 high-need pre-college and freshman students with 80 trained peer mentors;
  4. Conduct economic and workforce metadata analysis of workplace shortages and emerging career needs;
  5. Create new courses aligned with the new Illinois Learning Standards through faculty-to-faculty dialogue, creating shared expectations and aligning course content and rigor; and
  6. Increase enrollment of adult learners.

“I want to thank Marilyn Bellert and Laurie Elish-Piper for their leadership and our Regional P-20 Network stakeholders for their participation in this important work to improve student success,” President Baker said, acknowledging Director of Federal Relations Anna Quider for her role in preparing for the White House summit. “I look forward to our continued work with network partners to realize our goals for student attainment.”

The Northern Illinois P-20 Network was established to improve college and career success for our students through regional collaboration. The network supports the activities of the Illinois P-20 Council and its primary goal to increase the proportion of Illinoisans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Funded by NIU and a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Northern Illinois P-20 Network is facilitated by the Center for P-20 Engagement at Northern Illinois University as part of its college readiness activities.

The day of action helps to support President Obama’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help the nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment. The president is announcing 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.

According to White House press materials, 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.

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