University System of Maryland Announces Commitment to Expand College Access at White House Event

Adelphi, Md. (Dec. 4, 2014) -- Today, University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan joined President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden along with hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college. 

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the President's commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.   

The USM committed to expand the Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES) program statewide. ACES  serves students originally from Montgomery County that are underrepresented in higher education-including African American, Hispanic, low income or first generation college students-by providing them a pathway and support to earn their baccalaureate degrees.

During the past year, the 2013 inaugural class of ACES students have flourished under the guidance, encouragement, and mentorship provided by the ACES coaching staff. During the summer months, ACES students participated in a series of summer bridge programs that focused on topics including academic and career preparedness, success skills, and professional training. As a result of this comprehensive and continuous support structure, 98% of the MCPS seniors in ACES applied to a 2 or 4-year college or university. Of the 562 ACES seniors, 53% enrolled at Montgomery College.

In fall 2014, approximately 550 new MCPS juniors were welcomed into the ACES program, bringing the total number of ACES students to more than 1,300. The Maryland Legislature has been so impressed with the ACES Program in Montgomery County they have charged the USM, the Maryland Association of Community Colleges and the Maryland Department of Education with submitting a report by December 1, on how to expand and replicate the ACES program across Maryland.

The White House featured the work of USM and the ACES program in its publication released today, College Opportunity Commitments to Action: Progress Report (see p. 76).

Today's participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady's Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The President will announce new steps on how his Administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students' access to college.  Today's event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on January 14, 2014. 

Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class.  Today, only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor's degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile. In an effort to expand college access, the Obama Administration has increased Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, limited student loan payments to 10 percent of income, and laid out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.

Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719