WASHINGTON, D.C. — President and 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 people to college, Michelle and me, and maybe a few of you, wouldn’t be here today," said the president.
“The truth is that if Princeton hadn’t found my brother as a basketball recruit and 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,” said the first lady.
The president and first lady convened over 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 the college leaders and the Obama administration want to fix.
"The questions is: Can we make this the norm, rather than the exception?" asked U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "If we are concerned about social mobility, if we are concerned about income inequality, the only way we shrink those gaps is to make the dream of going to college a reality.
President Obama says it's one of his top priorities, and he says 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."