College Leaders Commit to Help One Million Low Income Students Attain College Degrees

College leaders from across the country gathered at the College For Every Student (CFES) Center in Essex, NY on June 24-25 to develop strategies to help one million low-income students attain college degrees by 2025.

"The 'One Million More' campaign grew out of the global summit CFES hosted in April that focused on the future of higher education," said Rick Dalton, president and CEO of College For Every Student. While the campaign will involve colleges, corporations and nonprofits from across the globe, the college effort is led by a 20-person task force, a dozen of whom gathered in Essex.

"When a first generation college student attains a degree, it changes not only the life of that student but the entire family trajectory," said President Stephen Ainlay of Union College in his opening remarks at the meeting.

A college degree also offers economic benefits in that a graduate currently earns $1.1 million more over their lifetime than a person with just a high school diploma, according to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In addition, the Lumina Foundation predicts that 23 million new, high-paying jobs will go unfilled in the next decade because they require postsecondary training and credentials.

Dr. Kristine Duffy, President of SUNY Adirondack in Glens Falls, NY, spoke about the challenges rural students face as they prepare for the new economy, "We need technology and early college programs to reach rural youth."

One task force member knows firsthand what rural students face. Kaitlyn Howrigan, currently associate director of recruitment at Harvard College, grew up on farm in Fairfield, Vermont that has been in her family for seven generations. Howrigan participated in the CFES program in high school and went on to earn her degree from Harvard.

Recommendations from the task force meeting included: creating success clusters on college campuses to support first generation students, enlisting CFES to provide training and other program support to colleges and expanding the number of college partners that will participate in the One Million More campaign.

"We are excited about next steps. We will spend the next six months enlisting college partners and developing our plan so that we can launch the campaign in January 2015," said Dalton.

The College Leaders' Task Force includes representatives from the following colleges and universities: Berea College, Clarkson University, George Mason University, Harvard College, Langston University, Middlebury College, North Country Community College, North Shore Community College, Royall & Company, State University of New York at Cobleskill, State University of New York at Plattsburgh, SUNY Adirondack, Union College, and United States Military Academy.