"Yes We Must" Summit Warns of Growing Crisis in Higher Education

Private College Coalition Calls for Increased Support for Low Income, First Generation, and Minority Students; Applauds Passage of New Student Loan Legislation

Boston, MA - A coalition of private colleges from across the U.S. warned of a growing crisis in higher education during the first “Yes We Must” Summit held in Boston. The Presidents and representatives of 11 private colleges and universities, which serve mostly low income, first generation and students of color , urged Congress to pass legislation that would increase financial aid to students in need.

College officials expressed concern about the country’s ability to regain global leadership in college attainment unless lawmakers and the philanthropic community significantly increase support for small colleges and universities that are currently struggling to give access to new populations of college students.

“The only way for our country to meet the educational goals that have been set by President Obama, is for more schools to reach out to those students who are currently not in the college pipeline,” said Gloria Nemerowicz, President of Pine Manor College. “We are successfully doing that work. We are affordable, private colleges that serve the public good. But our students and our institutions are often overlooked.”

On Thursday Congress passed legislation that will increase the number of Pell Grants and increase the amount students can borrow for their college education. The measure was included in the health care reform "Reconciliation" bill.

"This legislative victory, though less than what is needed, will play a critical role in our fight to broaden the population of students who have access to college education," said Nemerowicz. "With only 27% of our population holding a college degree, we have a long way to go. We must remain vigilant in our efforts if we are to see progress on a national level– we cannot afford to do otherwise."

The 11 colleges, which have proven track records of guiding their students to graduation and entrance into the economy as productive citizens, formed a new coalition committed to raising awareness of the crisis facing the country and the challenges facing their schools.

Pine Manor College, which is focused on making graduation a reality for low-income students and is ranked the nation’s most diverse campus by US News & World Report 2010, convened the Summit to create a national discussion about President Obama’s declared goal of having the world’s largest share of college graduates by 2020.

The Summit brought together key leaders within the sector of higher education devoted to opening up college access to lower-income level students. Speakers at the Summit included Greg Darnieder, special assistant and Advisor to the Secretary of Education and David Warren, President of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

The Presidents and the representatives of historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic serving institutions, tribal colleges and women’s colleges were among the participants. Representatives from organizations such as the College Summit and the United Negro College Fund , both recipients of Obama’s Nobel Prize money, that promote access to higher education attended as well.

Participating colleges included: Berea College – Berea, KY; Bennett College - Greensboro, NC; College of Saint Mary - Omaha, NE; Metropolitan College of NY - NY, NY; Nyack College - Nyack, NY; Our Lady of the Lake University - San Antonio, TX; Paul Quinn College - Dallas, TX; St. Joseph's College - Brooklyn, NY; Thomas University - Thomasville, GA; Dillard College – New Orleans, LA; Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA.