President Carol Quillen joins President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other college and university presidents at a White House summit today aimed at launching and enhancing college access and success for low-income students. The White House summit marks the formal launch of President Obama's second-term initiative to support academic access and completion and to make a college education affordable for all Americans.
"Davidson is privileged to take part in this incredible event, and we applaud the leadership and ingenuity of President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and our partners–the John M. Belk Endowment, the College Advising Corps (CAC), and The Posse Foundation-in facilitating this opportunity to develop innovative, new educational programs for our nation's neediest students," stated President Quillen. "In a democratic society, your access to education cannot be determined by your parent's income. Equal opportunity must be more than two words we say – it must be real – and through these new programs we will enable more talented and deserving students the opportunity to succeed in college and life."
Thanks to an extraordinary $10 million gift from the Belk Endowment, Davidson College, in collaboration with the CAC and other North Carolina higher educational institutions, will place 60 recent graduates as full-time college advisers in underserved rural North Carolina high schools. As many as 20 Davidson graduates will join the initiative, which aims to increase access to college for more than 18,000 rural North Carolina high school students.
The three-year effort also has roots at Davidson and its distinguished alumnus, the late John M. Belk, whose Endowment has funded the college access initiative.
Mr. Belk created the Endowment in 1995 to fund the Belk Scholars national merit scholarship program at Davidson, his beloved alma mater. The Scholars will continue as a legacy program funded by the John M. Belk Endowment, which recently broadened its mission to focus on empowering the 21st century workforce by increasing access to college for low-income and other underrepresented students. Beginning this year, the Endowment will award more than $13 million annually to North Carolina organizations aligned with its mission.
"Davidson College was near and dear to John Belk's heart," said Kristy Teskey, the inaugural executive director of the John M. Belk Endowment. "He strongly believed that Davidson prepared him for leadership and to live his life with purpose. He also felt all students should have access to an educational institution, such as Davidson, which in his words 'deepens the character of its students, sharpening their minds without ignoring their hearts."
The College Advising Corps is the first grant recipient under the Endowment's new mission. Since its founding in 2006, CAC has provided advising and encouragement to more than 400,000 underserved students across the nation to navigate the web of college admissions and secure financial aid. Davidson's CAC advisers will also identify high-achieving/low-income North Carolina high school students who will be invited to attend a free campus experience at the college.
"We are excited to expand aggressively into rural North Carolina with Davidson and other great North Carolina universities," said Nicole Hurd, founder and CEO of the College Advising Corps. "A successful future for low-income students is often made possible with a college degree, and a successful North Carolina is made possible by a dynamic, educated population. It is an honor to serve the state's students with our partner universities as we work to strengthen North Carolina's human capital, economic capacity and rural communities."
In another initiative to help underserved high school students, Davidson will partner with The Posse Foundation to recruit and enroll students from diverse backgrounds into studying STEM fields at Davidson. For five years, Davidson will recruit and educate a STEM Posse from Miami, totaling 50 students (10 students per year). Davidson will provide each student with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship, offer them a two-week STEM immersion program, and provide them with faculty mentors.
Posse President and Founder Deborah Bial said, "Posse is committed to identifying talented young leaders from diverse backgrounds who can achieve at the most selective institutions of higher education but who might be missed by traditional admissions practices. The Foundation works in tandem with its partner colleges to build more welcoming campuses so that students from all backgrounds feel integrally connected to the community. Nowhere is this kind of initiative more important than in the STEM fields, given the challenges we face as a country. We strongly applaud our partner schools for their support of Posse and our Scholars and look forward to working with them."
These two initiatives bolster existing efforts at Davidson to recruit and involve underrepresented students in its academic programming. The college encourages enrollment of students with limited financial resources by practicing need-blind admission, and meets demonstrated financial need for all admitted students through grants and campus employment.
It also offers these students a "Strategies for Success" and a "Research in Science Experience" program, both of which offer early research opportunities and a peer-mentoring program during the summer and school year.
Additionally, Davidson recruits talented, low-income high school students to its "July Experience," a three-week, residential summer program that offers students a residential college academic experience and helps prepare them for the college search process through mock interviews, essay writing, and sessions about financial aid. Davidson partners with a large number of regional and community based organizations, including KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), to provide this opportunity to students.
Charlotte Business Journal: Belk Endowment commits $10M to support higher education opportunities in N.C.
News & Record: N.C. endowment gives $10M to improve college access
The Washington Post: Corps aims to help low-income students get to college