Georgia colleges commit to improving access for low-income students

Four Georgia colleges have signed on to a White House initiative to expand college opportunities for low-income students.

The commitment is part of the White House’s initiative unveiled Thursday that aims to better prepare these students for college, and remove barriers to them getting there. President Barack Obama and the First Lady hosted several college and university presidents, along with representatives from nonprofit and business groups to outline the plan.

The goal is to improve access in four areas: connecting low-income students with the right college, providing early intervention to increase the number of students preparing for college, leveling the filed in college advising and SAT/ACT test preparation and strengthening remediation where necessary.

The institutions involved — including Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Morehouse and Spelman colleges — each committed to new efforts to improve access for this student group.

The commitments vary from financial awards to expanded data collection targeting these students.

For Morehouse College, the plan includes a new pre-college assessment to identify promising high school students. The test will factor in traditional academic skills, but also “soft” skills, like a student’s persistence and communication skills.

“There is particularly harsh data for black males in the educational pipeline,” said Morehouse President John Wilson, who attended the White House event.

“A lot of low-income students don’t get information about college early enough or when they do, they get bad information,” he said.

Georgia Tech’s pledge includes offering college level calculus courses to low-income high school students and family financial planning to the participating students. Georgia State will implement an early alert system to help students with financial issues that may keep them out of school. And Spelman College will increase its “President’s Safety Net” fund to provide small grants for students in emergency situations who are nearing graduation.