University of Texas at Austin president Bill Powers is joining President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other university presidents today at a White House forum on increasing educational opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged students.
Powers is currently chair of the Association of American Universities, a nonprofit association of leading North American public and private research universities. In that role, he also recently met with congressional leaders to discuss the impact of federal sequestration on higher education and to explore potential solutions.
At the White House forum, Powers and representatives from over 100 colleges and 40 organizations committed to take new action in four areas crucial to college opportunity. The areas include: connecting more low-income students to the college that is right for them to ensure graduation; intervening early to encourage student college readiness and attendance; increasing access for students to college advising and SAT/ACT training; and improving remedial education to support success of academically unprepared students.
Issues surrounding affordability and accessibility have been priorities for UT Austin during Powers' eight years as president, and his participation today will build upon existing efforts to promote higher education.
"Ensuring that low-income and underserved students are able to attend top universities like UT Austin helps these students and their families succeed. More than that, it bolsters our economy and improves society by ensuring that our brightest young minds have the chance to receive a world-class education and flourish," Powers said.
While maintaining its commitment to academic excellence, UT Austin has launched a comprehensive initiative to increase four-year graduation rates to 70 percent in order to help bring down the cost of college and improve student success. The university is also currently expanding three groundbreaking programs designed to reduce costs and improve students' readiness for college. They are:
- The University Leadership Network, which helps low-income students develop leadership skills through campus and community service while achieving academic success that is consistent with timely graduation. In exchange for participation and meeting program goals, students receive monthly financial assistance, up to $20,000 over four years.
- The Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment (PACE) program with Austin Community College. Students who participate in the program take most of their classes at Austin Community College during their first two years of college. They can save on tuition then transition to full time at UT Austin without having to apply for transfer admission.
- The OnRamps initiative, a suite of blended-learning courses designed to accelerate students' success in college that can be offered for dual credit in high schools or in colleges and universities. OnRamps includes rigorous, customizable content and digital course materials that rely on new technologies and advanced analytics to help instructors pinpoint and address students' learning needs.
Powers and the other university presidents also participated in a pre-forum discussion about improving student access and success opportunities at a dinner last night with top administration officials.
"I'm honored to be part of this important discussion with President and Mrs. Obama, Secretary Duncan and my fellow university presidents," said Powers.