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Media Advisory

For immediate use

August 29, 2006 -- No. 395

Conference seeks national solutions on access
to higher education for low-income students

‘The Politics of Inclusion: Higher Education at a Crossroads’
Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro Street
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sept. 10-13, 2006

News media representatives are invited to cover “The Politics of Inclusion:  Higher Education at a Crossroads,” a conference seeking national solutions to the complex issues surrounding access and affordability in American higher education Sept. 10-13 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

About 150 state and federal policymakers, economists, researchers, foundation and business leaders and educators from across the country will exchange ideas during a conference intended to help shape national policy and practice. Conference papers and guidelines will be published later in a book to help inform future discussions.

Sponsors are the Lumina Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the College Foundation of North Carolina.  

The need for a highly trained, well-educated workforce has never been greater – and it is growing rapidly, raising critical questions for U.S. colleges and universities, conference organizers say. But low-income students go to college in fewer instances than others; complete college at lower rates; and attend four-year colleges generally, and selective colleges particularly, with much less frequency than other students. As college costs continue to climb, the problem of unequal access will worsen without interventions – another reason that organizers are convening this conference.

Many economists and experts in business and education maintain that access to higher education in America must increase or the nation will lose its ability to compete in the global marketplace. Equally important is an educated citizenry – essential to the preservation of a representative form of government, high quality of life and strong social institutions.

Because larger percentages of some minority groups rank in the lower-income groups – and because people of color will grow in number to make up half the country’s population by 2050 – solving income-related access issues will require attention to race, ethnicity and immigration.

Such issues have long been of interest to administrators at UNC-Chapel Hill, which was the nation’s first major public research university to create a program promising qualified low-income students they could graduate debt-free. Now in its third year, the Carolina Covenant (http://www.unc.edu/carolinacovenant/) is for eligible students and families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That covers a family of four making $37,000 annually or a single parent with a child at $24,000. The program also includes faculty and peer mentor components.

Several other campuses have made similar new and recent investments in programs promoting increased affordability and access. They include Arizona State, Brown, Harvard, Michigan State, New York, N.C. State, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Princeton, Stanford and Troy universities. Others are the universities of Michigan, Florida, Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Iowa, Maryland at College Park, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Yale. Rounding out the list of schools with programs to date are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Amherst College and College of William and Mary.

Speakers and Panel Discussion Topics:  Keynote speaker Monday, Sept. 11, at 9 a.m. will be UNC Chancellor James Moeser, who announced the Carolina Covenant in 2003. He will discuss “The Will and the Way.” Other featured speakers that day are Gaston Caperton, president of The College Board and former West Virginia governor, addressing “Our Moral Imperative:  America Must be Serious About Investing in its Future,” and William G. Bowen, senior research associate and president emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, discussing “A Democratic Polity for Higher Education:  Who Should American Colleges and Universities Educate in the 21st Century … and Why?”  On Tuesday, Sept. 12, Andrea Bazán-Manson, president of the Triangle Community Foundation, will address “The Politics of Inclusion:  Finding a Way to Enlarge Our Democracy through Expanded Access to Higher Education” during luncheon remarks.

In addition, panelists will tackle topics including the changing demographics of American higher education; economic, political and social objectives of higher education in the 21st century; the politics of who goes to college and where; challenges threatening access to college; and new ways to foster access and inclusion. Specific issues will include rising college costs, illegal immigrant children and admissions preferences.

Among the panelists will be Richard Kahlenberg, editor of the 2004 book “America’s Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education,” Edward Fiske, education writer and consultant and former education editor at The New York Times; Kristine E. Dillon, president of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education; Thomas J. Kane, professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Marta Tienda, Maurice P. During ’22 professor in demographic studies at Princeton University; Julius Chambers, director of UNC’s Center for Civil Rights and former chancellor of N.C. Central University; and James B. Hunt Jr., former N.C. governor and board chair of the Hunt Institute for Educational Leadership & Policy.

The conference will conclude Sept. 13 with a practicum for financial aid administrators running new programs designed to recruit and help low- and moderate-income students.

Conference Web site:  For a full agenda, go to www.unc.edu/inclusion/.  Biographies of speakers and abstracts of their presentations will be posted soon.

Advance Interviews:  Chancellor Moeser, Shirley Ort, UNC’s associate provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, and other key conference organizers are available for advance interviews. News Services can also help reporters interested in talking with UNC students who are part of the Carolina Covenant program.

Covering the conference: News Services can provide assistance with your logistical needs, including travel plans to attend. If you have a specific question, please call (919) 962-2091.

Videographers and Photographers: As long as the proceedings are not disrupted and distractions are kept to a minimum, television and newspaper videographers and photographers may roam and use flashes. TV lights should be avoided if possible.

Audio feeds: A multbox will be provided.

Media parking: Enter the Carolina Inn parking lot, on the left after turning onto Pittsboro Street from Cameron Avenue. Show media identification. If the lot is full, cross the street to the University Relations building at 210 Pittsboro St. Park in visitor spaces in the back and obtain a visitor permit at the front desk in the building. Display the permit on the dashboard. If the 210 lot is full, seek parking on side streets west of Pittsboro or in the Morehead Building lot on East Franklin Street.

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Contact: News Services staff, (919) 962-2091 or news@unc.edu