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On Thursday, Wayne State University and President M. Roy Wilson joined President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden along with hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.

Wayne State — one of the nation’s premier public, urban research universities — supports the president’s commitment in three key areas.

First, the university, through its College of Education, has developed a new initiative to support high school counselors. Working closely with K-12 educational experts and college access groups, Wayne State is one of the first universities in the country to develop and offer a formal curriculum in the area of postsecondary planning and college counseling. Wayne State expects the course to have a positive impact on the college readiness and college attainment of more than 650,000 students over the next decade by teaching future counselors how to implement the eight components of College and Career Readiness (CCR) defined by the National Office of School Counseling Advocacy.

Second, Wayne State has also joined with a consortium of community colleges and universities in metro Detroit to help meet the President’s goal of developing more college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Wayne State, along with Marygrove College, University of Detroit Mercy and Wayne County Community College, are leading the National Institutes of Health’s REBUILD Detroit initiative — an acronym for Research Enhancement for Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity. The initiative aims to encourage more undergraduate students from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue careers in biomedical research. REBUILD Detroit will accomplish this by drawing more minority and economically disadvantaged students into the STEM pipeline, exposing students to research in laboratories and enhancing the research-training environment. As Michigan’s only public, urban research university, Wayne State will serve as the research partner in the consortium of schools. It will mentor faculty from other institutions in research skills; provide research-training opportunities; and provide REBUILD scholars skills development in grant applications, graduate school preparedness, and networking opportunities.

Third, with an ambitious goal of doubling the number of transfer students by the year 2020 and producing 2,500 additional degrees by the year 2025, Wayne State expects to be a major contributor to the nation’s effort to expand and build networks of colleges that will promote completion. The university will leverage its current student success initiatives and build on its recently created Transfer Student Success Center (TSSC) to accomplish these goals. The TSSC will serve as a hub to assist transfer students in navigating Wayne State and as an advocacy unit on behalf of transfer students.

To support its engagement with transfer students, Wayne state will create specialized training for student advisors on transfer students’ needs, extend Wayne State student success initiatives to community college partner campuses, offer more degree programs that are articulated with community colleges, and invest in IT systems to provide better institutional data about transfers students. Additionally, there will be coordinated activities and programs with Wayne State’s five top feeder community colleges (Oakland Community College, Macomb Community College, Henry Ford College, Schoolcraft College and Wayne County Community College District) that together create a shared ecosystem for degree attainment in Southeast Michigan, including Detroit.

“As the first person in my extended family to be educated beyond high school, expanding college access is a deeply held personal conviction,” said President Wilson. “I fully support President Obama, the First Lady and Vice President Biden’s goal to make the United States the world leader in college attainment.”

Today’s participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

President Obama will announce new steps on how his administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college. Today’s event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on Jan. 14, 2014.

Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class. Today, only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile. In an effort to expand college access, the Obama Administration has increased Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, limited student loan payments to 10 percent of income, and laid out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students.

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