MINNEAPOLIS – First Lady Michelle Obama singled out the University of Minnesota for praise Thursday morning during a White House meeting. The remarks came during her presentation at the College Opportunity Summit.
The White House gathering of University Presidents and business leaders was aimed at underlining the need to boost college attendance and graduations by low income Americans. President Obama told the members of the summit "only 30% of low income students enroll in college right after high school and, by their mid 20's, only 9% earn a bachelor's degree."
University of Minnesota President Eric Kahler attended the meeting and heard Mrs. Obama praise his school's four new programs to attract and retain low income students.
"Every school offers financial aid services, but listen to what the University of Minnesota is doing," Mrs. Obama said. "They are committing to expand those services to include financial literacy programs to help students and their families manage the costs of college."
Bob McMaster, U of M Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, said a lot of school's effort involves understanding that low income students are often the first generation of their family to attend college.
"Often, first generation students do not have the same kind of family support because their parents have not gone to college and know about how to register, how to manage money for college and some of the complications in going to college," said McMaster. "It makes a big difference if some of your family members have gone to college."
McMaster said the U of M has coupled four programs to assist low income students, including the financial literacy element. There is also a President's Emerging Scholars Program, requiring income students to attend a summer "bridge" program to ease them into the college experience.
The $300,000 program is to continue for 3 years. The U of M welcomes about 1100 Pell Grant students each year. McMaster said the financial aid at the University is strong.
"If you put together the Pell grants that come from the federal government that max out at about $5,700, the state grant that maxes out at about $3,500 and our U of M Promise that maxes out at about $4,000, that really covers tuition and fees for very low income kids, kids that have zero expected family contributions."