President Obama launches new college initiative for low-income students

Colleges, universities and educational organizations have made pledges to take steps to address the issue

Published: January 16 2014 | 11:04 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 2:11 am in

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will meet with representatives of colleges, universities and philanthropic groups at the White House on Thursday to talk about steps to get more low-income students to attend college.

The event is part of Obama's pledge to try to narrow the gap between rich and poor, a politically popular theme that is expected to dominate his State of the Union address on January 28.

Obama has been unable to get some of his major initiatives approved by a sharply divided Congress and has pledged to maximize use of his powers of persuasion to advance his goals.

The day-long summit is an example of this approach. White House officials worked with educational leaders on the project, aimed at getting them to take concrete steps to help students prepare for and get good advice on getting into college.

"We do not have a more clear ladder of economic mobility than the attainment of a college degree for someone born into a low-income family," Gene Sperling, Obama's top economic advisor, told reporters, previewing Thursday's event.

Students born into families that are in the bottom 25 percent of income have only a 9 percent chance of graduating from college, Sperling said.

By contrast, students born into families in the top 25 percent of income have a 54 percent chance of getting a degree.

Colleges, universities and educational organizations have made more than 100 pledges to take steps to address the issue. The list describing the projects, which will be released by the White House on Thursday, runs more than 80 pages.

The White House plans further events this year to follow up on progress made, Sperling said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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