In early December, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs joined 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.
Berea College works to increase college readiness and college-going rates and retention in the Appalachian region. Working in partnership with school districts, students and families, community organizations, businesses and philanthropies, Berea College is committed to increasing the number of high school students who are on track to enter and succeed in college. Through a place-based, student-focused approach, Berea College’s Partners for Education program is committed to improving educational outcomes in Appalachian Kentucky.
By designing a collaborative suite of programs, including GEAR UP, I3, AmeriCorps, Upward Bound Math and Science, and the first rural Promise Neighborhood, Berea College leverages external resources to support more than 25,000 young people and their families, helping them navigate each step of their educational journey from cradle to career. Berea’s partners in this work are school systems in nearby disadvantaged counties and community organizations.
“I am honored, on behalf of Berea College, to be invited to take part in this latest White House summit of education leaders. Berea’s distinctive mission and our significant service to the school systems in our region make us a model of national interest,” President Roelofs says. “Since the 1870s, Berea College has served the Appalachian region by providing outreach services to mountain communities as well as college education for young people.”
“Berea’s mission, as stated in our eight ‘Great Commitments,’ includes a commitment ‘to serve the Appalachian region primarily through education but also by other appropriate services,’” Roelofs says. “As a result, it is only natural for Berea to participate in this national College Opportunity Day of Action by demonstrating our commitment to deepening our educational outreach work in Appalachia, particularly in collaborative efforts through our Partners for Education division at Berea College.”
Participants in the event 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.
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.