Williams College Joins White House Initiative on College Access

Media contact:  Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., December 4, 2014—Williams College President Adam Falk will today join 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.

Williams submitted to the initiative a dozen new efforts to expand student preparedness for college and persistence to graduation. The White House selected two to highlight.

One is conducted with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) and the North Adams School District. MCLA was the “lead investigator” for a National Science Foundation grant to support the program, called “Teaching to Learn,” which is aimed at increasing persistence among majors related to science, technology, engineering, and math.

It involves students from both colleges developing and teaching science lessons in K-7 classrooms in North Adams. Undergraduates and K-7 teachers are also participating in joint professional development to deepen their understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and of science teaching, and to reinforce their connection as a community of learners. The project also seeks to improve the scientific literacy of the general public by improving the ability of undergraduate participants, and their college faculty advisors, to communicate scientific information to lay audiences. Finally, the project will help increase the pool of potential scientists by increasing the quality of science education in the schools.

In the second program cited by the White House, Williams will expand its effort to leverage the strength of the Williams alumni network to help demystify the college application process for high-achieving, low-income high school students nationally. The college pairs alumni of color with high school students they can mentor and guide through the admission and financial aid process. The college aims to provide more than 400 prospective high-achieving, low-income students with such mentoring and support.

Other access programs that Williams submitted include ones that involve education and mentoring carried out in collaboration with local schools, community organizations, and the juvenile justice system.

“Expanding access to college among historically underrepresented groups and supporting those students through graduation is vital to the health of our colleges and universities and to the nation as a whole,” Williams President Adam Falk said. “Williams is eager to contribute what it can to this effort and welcomes the White House making these initiatives such a high priority.”

Participants in the White House initiative 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.

The President 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 January 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.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.