Centre President John Roush Pledges Commitment to Action on College Opportunity as part of White House Summit
While not in attendance at today’s White House education summit convened by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Centre College President John Roush has been very much a part of this important national conversation to increase college opportunity for all Americans.
Roush was unable to attend the meeting in Washington, D.C., with other college presidents because it conflicted with the course he teaches on leadership during CentreTerm, an intensive three-week January session with classes that meet daily.
However, in a letter to Obama outlining Centre’s commitments, Roush wrote, “I do think you and our friends in Washington need to be aware that there are colleges, like Centre, that have not become places of privilege for the privileged. Smart, hard-working young people from all socioeconomic groups are encouraged to apply, have their need met, and, when they enroll, are made to feel welcome and encouraged to excel.”
Specifically, Roush pledged to take action to improve its recruitment of Hispanic-Americans. This, Roush emphasized, is part of Centre’s broader strategic planning that calls for exploring how to best and better serve under-represented groups of Americans who will need to be invited to pursue higher education.
In addition, Centre will also explore the prospect of adding a new program to provide educational opportunities at Centre for military veterans through the Posse Foundation, with which Centre has partnered since 2005. Founded in 1989, the Posse program now sends cohorts or “posses” of 10 students to 48 top colleges and universities across the nation, where the Posse Scholars receive four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships.
The Posse Veterans Initiative was launched in 2012 to increase attendance and graduation at selective colleges and universities by those who have served in the armed forces. The first such program was inaugurated at Vassar College in upstate New York, with a second recently added at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Full scholarships are supplemented by GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon funding.
A veteran himself, Roush reminded Obama in his letter that Kentucky is home to two important military installations: Fort Knox, south of Louisville, and Fort Campbell, south of Hopkinsville near the Tennessee border.
The pledges offered by Roush and other leaders across the country have become part of an 88-page document titled “Commitments to Action on College Opportunity,” compiled by Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council. The document will focus today’s conversations at the White House summit and includes pledges by public and private colleges and universities, and community colleges, as well as nonprofits, organizations, foundations and businesses.
Centre’s commitment builds on existing efforts, according to Roush. “Centre has a long-standing commitment as a place of high achievement and high opportunity,” he wrote to Obama, “which is a common phrase at our college that expresses our belief that excellence and access are not mutually exclusive.”
The current incoming class of Centre students is no exception and is filled with high-achievers who come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Nearly 60 percent of the students graduated in the top 10 percent of their classes and have averages of 28 on their ACT or 1275 on their SAT. As is typical of the entire student body of 1,375, nearly two-thirds qualify for need-based student financial aid and approximately 20 percent are Pell eligible.
Centre’s four-year graduation rate is regularly in the low-to-mid eighties, and 97 percent of Centre students are employed or pursuing advanced degrees within 10 months after graduation.
Also in his letter to Obama, Roush made clear that he does not “normally welcome federal involvement in a responsibility that has been left to the states.” However, he is nonetheless encouraged by and supportive of Obama’s “interest to challenge our nation’s institutions of higher education to ‘step it up,’ declare those ways in which they plan to improve their results, and redouble their efforts to be sure the economically less-advantaged are included in the pursuit of the American dream.”
by Michael Strysick