Missouri Innovation Campus Partners Join Commitment to Expand College Access at White House Event

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Representatives from Metropolitan Community College-Longview, University of Central Missouri and Lee’s Summit R-7 School District joined President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.  Hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders across the nation also traveled to DC to take part in the December 4,2014 event.

The White House College Opportunity Day of Action supports the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders, and nonprofits to support students across the country to help the nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment. MCC-Longview President Kirk Nooks, UCM President Charles Ambrose and Lee’s Summit R-7 Superintendent David McGehee participated as representatives of The Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC). The MIC is a joint initiative between Metropolitan Community College UCM, the Summit Technology Academy within the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, and numerous business partners.

“MIC is a shining example of partnerships that prepare students for the success they deserve. Public school districts, higher education and businesses working together in a whole new way can only lead to bright futures for our students. We are excited and energized to be involved in the national discussion and are looking forward to what we can and will accomplish in the future”, said MCC-Longview President Kirk Nooks.

When he visited UCM in July 2013 to speak about the nation’s economy, President Obama cited The MIC as an excellent example of the type of partnership needed to help meet national goals related to reducing students’ college debt load and to produce more graduates with job-ready skills. Students enroll in The MIC their junior year of high school, and take classes at the Summit Technology Academy. Upon graduation from high school, these students will have their high school diplomas and associate degrees, then complete their final two years of study at UCM. While doing so, they accelerate the time it takes to earn a four-year degree, graduate with no student debt, obtain applied experience through paid internships with major Kansas City corporations, and obtain highly sought-after skills for high-paying technology careers.

McGehee added, “The Missouri Innovation Campus prepares our students for bright futures through a rigorous, accelerated program that blends classroom instruction with hands-on learning and internships at top businesses. We are grateful to all of our partners – UCM, MCC and the business community – who are working together to ensure that our students succeed, and we appreciate the opportunity to participate in the national dialogue.”

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 STEM fields.

The MIC, in collaboration with the Kansas City School District and a host of other local education and community partners, commits to expanding college degree attainment aligned with high-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) – related fields across the Kansas City region. Using The MIC as a model, this network will work in cooperation with the Metropolitan Kansas City Higher Education Collaborative (a Lumina-sponsored community mobilization site) to expand the existing K-16 partnership that emphasizes college readiness, competency-based delivery, accelerated pathways, and new credentials that lower the cost of college, eliminate skills gaps, and reduce and/or eliminate student loan debt to finance a college degree. The MIC model also will serve as a platform to significantly expand partnerships that will expand access opportunities for underserved Hispanic and Black student populations, as well as working adults seeking to obtain gainful employment and/or expanded career opportunities.

“”We look forward to being part of the national discussion on expanding college access,” President Ambrose said. “We are very grateful for the strong partnerships that have been created through The MIC, and are excited about taking it to the next level. Expanding the partnership gives us an opportunity to align leadership, talent, and economic needs of this region to meet national goals for degree completion.”

President Obama announced 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.  The event was the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and included a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on Jan. 14, 2014.

Expanding opportunities 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.  According to statistics provided by the White House, 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.