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White House hosts college presidents for higher learning summit

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The White House hosted college presidents and business leaders Thursday, and focused on finding way to help more low-income students earn a college degree. Geoff Bennett reports.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama used their own lives as examples to emphasize the the importance of opening up access to higher education for more Americans.

"The fact is, if we hadn't made a commitment as a country to send more of our people to college, Michelle, me, maybe a few of you, would not be here today," the president said.

"The truth is that if Princeton hadn't found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn't seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school, never," the first lady said.

The president and first lady convened more than 100 college presidents and business leaders Thursday. They made policy pledges to expand access to college for low-income students, in part by expanding college prep courses and mentoring programs and waiving application fees. They'll reconvene next year to check their progress.

Studies show that the vast majority of low-income college students with high test scores and good grades do not apply to the most selective colleges. Often, that's because of inadequate counseling and limited recruitment.

It's something that college leaders and the Obama administration want to fix.

"Can we make this the norm, rather than the exception?" said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "If we are concerned about social mobility, if we're concerned about income inequality, the only way we shrink those gaps is to make college, the dream of going to college a reality.

President Obama said it's one of his top priorities, and he said if he has to, he'll use executive action to bypass a gridlocked Congress.

"I've got a pen to take executive actions where Congress won't, and I've got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission," he said.

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