WASHINGTON -- Two White House officials told a group of leaders of historically black colleges and universities gathered here for a conference that the sector has "friends in the White House," but that the institutions need to do more work to meet President Obama's goal for the country to have the world's highest proportion of degree-holders by 2020. The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which organized the conference, has pushed the colleges to do more to retain and graduate students, including by creating a new website that specifies how many additional students colleges will have to graduate each year to meet the president's goal.
In two speeches at the conference's opening session, Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and John Silvanus Wilson Jr., director of the initiative, each recognized some colleges for attracting grants, better retaining students or incorporating technology in the classroom. But the sector needs to make a "collective and individual commitment to step up and work even harder, just as we ask our students to do every single day," Jarrett said.
Wilson highlighted the department's work to increase the endowments and facilities at historically black colleges, as well as their profile. But improving alumni giving is crucial, he said. "We don't want to criticize," he said. "We want to help."