President Obama invited nearly 150 university, nonprofit, and business leaders to the White House Jan. 16 for a summit devoted to finding ways of improving college access to low-income students.

white-house-educationThose in attendance were required to make specific commitments to increase college opportunity — and education technology such as data analytics, online learning, and mobile devices are key factors in many of those pledges.

“Today only 30 percent of low-income students enroll in college right after high school and, far worse, by their mid-20s only 9 percent earn a bachelor’s degree,” Obama said. “So if we as a nation can expand opportunity and reach out to those young people and help them not just go to college but graduate from college or university, it could have a transformative effect.”

The summit largely stayed away from any discussion of Obama’s controversial college rating system, and instead focused on a series of panel and group discussions about individual efforts to address enrollment and retention.

Greg Tobin, Pearson’s president of higher education English, mathematics, and student success, was one of the few executives invited to attend the summit, which was primarily comprised of college and university presidents.

Tobin, who described the White House assembly as a “once-in-a-lifetime gathering,” said while the summit did not explore specific techniques for technology implementation, ed-tech was frequently referenced throughout the event.

“Technology plays a large part in helping colleges make the right decisions,” Tobin said, adding that Pearson would work with 50 colleges and universities to bolster completion rates. “I think the charge that came from the meeting was to ask ‘what can you do proactively to reach out to these students?'”

The summit came just one day after the second annual White House Education Datapalooza, a gathering of more than 600 educators, business leaders, policy-makers, and data scientists focusing on the future of data and technology in education. The Obama administration is also now seeking “public comments to inform its policy development related to high-impact learning technologies.”


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