By Pat Loeb

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Three local college presidents will be among the guests at a White House summit on higher education in Washington today. The goal is to extend opportunities for a college education to more students.

“I hope that I come home with new ideas,” Montgomery County College president Karen Stout said.

She is one of some 140 experts of various stripes, and she expects to do a lot of listening at the summit but she also hopes she gets to contribute her ideas on the topic of expanding opportunities.

“Community colleges are so essential to that, I feel like we’re right in the middle of that continuum”

Stout will be joined by Amy Gutman from Penn and Kim Cassidy from Bryn Mawr college. Though her school is more elite, Cassidy says it has a strong record of admitting and supporting low-income students.

“They are there to get a great education but also because we believe they can contribute,” Cassidy said.

In order to attend, the schools had to promise new initiatives. Cassidy says Bryn Mawr is committed to increasing its partnership with the Posse Foundation.

The Foundation identifies public high school students with academic and leadership promise who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes and helps place them in colleges in groups of 10 so they have instant peer support. Bryn Mawr gives them four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships.

Bryn Mawr has hosted a Posse since the fall of 2001 and now will add a STEM Posse, specifically for students interesting in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“Our Posse Scholars have flourished,” says Cassidy. “The most recent alumnae of our Posse program graduated at a rate of 100 percent in four years, and Posse Scholars have a great track record of holding key leadership positions on campus. Our STEM Posse will work to extend that success into STEM fields. While American higher education continues to struggle to achieve ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity, Bryn Mawr has an excellent track record of attracting and retaining high-achieving women students from diverse backgrounds in its STEM programs.”

Stout is launching three initiatives aimed at improving access for low-income and disadvantaged students.

For the first initiative, Integrated Planning and Advising Services, MCCC is redesigning its student entry and advising processes in a way that combines human capital with technological tools to allow for inclusive academic planning.

Next, MCCC is working to create a new model for student engagement. Through a series of engaging experiences across a range of platforms, the program aims to build continuous enrollment at the College, support completion efforts, and provide students with a set of tools that will enhance their success upon graduation.

The third initiative is an expansion of the College’s Minority Student Mentoring Initiative to help increase the retention and success of low-income African-American male students, to include low-income African-American and Latina female students.

Gutman was unavailable.