The University of Washington will participate in a federal initiative, announced Jan. 16 by President Obama, to help more students afford and graduate from college.
The Increasing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students initiative is intended to reduce the time it takes for low-income and underrepresented minority students to finish college, making it more likely that they will complete a degree.
Speaking at the White House, the president and first lady Michelle Obama promoted college education as one of the surest routes to entering the middle class and said the initiative is a means for low-income students to overcome barriers to college access.
“We are very pleased to see the White House prioritize the importance of a college education for young people to fulfill their dreams and rise up the economic ladder in our society,” said UW president Michael K. Young. “Many universities – especially the public ones – are already doing great things to make higher education accessible and keep it affordable. This initiative will help strengthen those efforts and provide an incentive for others to get on board.”
The UW, among more than 140 colleges and universities nationwide to sign on to the effort, committed to significantly increase the six-year graduation rate of low-income and underrepresented minority students. By 2025, three-quarters of those students would graduate in six years compared with 50 percent who graduate in six years now.
The number of degrees those students earn in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics would increase to 500 a year from the current 290. The UW also committed to providing 400 additional bachelor’s degrees through online degree-completion programs by 2025.
The UW currently serves a significant population of students from economically stressed backgrounds. For instance, about one-third of UW undergraduates who are Washington residents qualify for federal Pell Grants or State Need Grants. These students also qualify for the UW’s Husky Promise program, which guarantees that all of their tuition costs not covered by the grants will be paid by the university. Also, about a third of entering UW freshmen each year are the first in their families to attend college.
Another project aimed at providing more college opportunities for first-generation and low-income students is the UW’s Dream Project, a student-initiated and operated program that sends UW students into area high schools to help students there navigate their way through the college application process, including preparation for entrance examinations and applying for financial aid. More than 500 UW students currently volunteer and serve as mentors to high school seniors applying to college.
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