On March 24, 2016, Berea College President Lyle Roelofs attended a meeting hosted by the U.S. Department of Education focused on highlighting institutions across the country that are making significant strides in increasing graduation rates among students eligible for Pell Grants.
“For students from low- and moderate-income families, a college degree is the surest path to the middle class in our country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. “I applaud the colleges and universities that have taken measurable steps to open up this pathway and make it a successful one for students from all backgrounds. But we need these types of efforts to become the rule and not the exception. King continued, “Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has worked to ensure more Americans have the opportunity to get a quality, affordable higher education, with promising results – more students are graduating from college than ever before. But many American families still feel that college may be out of reach for their children.”
In a newly published report titled, “Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need, Advancing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students,” the U.S. Department of Education says colleges and universities have a responsibility to expand access to all students and offer targeted support for low-income students. The report is also a call to action for institutions with significant gaps between completion rates for Pell Grant recipients and overall completion rates, as well as institutions that have positive outcomes but enroll too few low-income students.
Roelofs said, “Considering the ongoing national discussion about affordability and access, we at Berea College find it especially gratifying to be recognized as a leader in serving the public good by educating talented, low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in Appalachia and beyond.” Roelofs also stated, “Nationally, fewer than 13 percent of low-income college students graduate by the time they are 24. At Berea, we graduate five times as many.”
Ted Mitchell, U.S. Under Secretary of Education, commented, “For us to thrive as a diverse democracy and for individuals to achieve their dreams of success, higher education must fulfill its promise of providing opportunity to all students, regardless of their race, gender or income level.” Mitchell continued, saying, “That opportunity means access, but getting into college is not enough. It’s getting in and getting through that matters. There are remarkable institutions around the country succeeding at making access and success a reality for low-income students. We need to learn from their leadership and spread the word about practices that work.”
The Department of Education conference with college presidents, trustees and campus leaders from across the nation was held to discuss ongoing work. Among those attending were several who represented colleges and universities included in the report. The event spotlighted the promising and proven practices developed by these institutions to advance success for low-income students, and encourage broader conversations among the field to accelerate this work.
For more information about Berea College, visit: www.berea.edu
# # #