Gearhart to Discuss Ways of Increasing Access to Higher Education at White House Summit

Chancellor G. David Gearhart.
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Chancellor G. David Gearhart.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart will join other college and university presidents, as well as leaders from nonprofits, foundations, state governments and businesses for a day-long summit meeting at the White House, starting at 9 a.m. (E.T.) Thursday, Jan. 16. The purpose of the event is to discuss ways to make a college education more accessible to low-income and underrepresented students, and to help them succeed and graduate after they are admitted.

The summit will be streamed live at and can be followed on Twitter at #OpportunityForAll.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the event. The Michelle Obama will lead the summit, along with members of the National Economic Policy Council and the federal Department of Education. The higher education leaders were invited based on their institutions’ commitment to increasing access and academic success for this student population.

“It is an honor to be invited to this summit and to have the University of Arkansas recognized for its commitment to recruiting and retaining low income and under-represented Arkansans,” said Gearhart. “We have programs in place that prepare students for college while they are still in high school and that help provide academic as well as financial resources to help them flourish once they get to campus. I’m eager to share what we are doing with others at the summit and to learn from them as well.”

“President Obama should be commended for bringing this issue to national attention, for putting the weight of the federal government behind this initiative and for bringing together the leaders and organizations that will need to work together to achieve these important goals.”

The University of Arkansas currently has four programs specifically aimed at preparing low-income, underrepresented students for college.

The ACT Academy is a five-day residential summer program that prepares high school students for the ACT exam and the college admissions process while living on the U of A campus.

The Academic Enrichment Program provides academic support through tutoring, workshops, early intervention advising, peer and faculty mentoring and experiential learning opportunities.

iBridge is a two-week academic program offering an intensive orientation to college-level literacy and STEM courses to ease the transition to college for incoming freshmen.

The Engineering Career Awareness Program is another transitional bridge program that also provides gap funding support and uses rigorous academic retention strategies for each year’s group of incoming freshmen.

In addition the university is in the process of developing three new programs to further its efforts to recruit, retain and graduate low-income and underrepresented students.

The Commitment to College Completion Program is a pilot program funded with a $2.1 million gift from the Walton Family Foundation. The program will provide first generation and low-income Arkansas students with financial resources to help meet the cost of attending the university as well as to give them opportunities for study abroad. The program will also offer academic enrichment and peer and faculty mentoring.

Expanded Summer Bridge Program represents the U of A’s commitment to establish a six-week summer program that will provide transitioning freshmen an in-depth introduction to college life and learning. Students will live on campus while taking two credit-bearing classes.

Targeted University Perspectives Course will be a first-year course focusing on the special concerns of first-generation and low-income students. The course curriculum will include intensive advising and career coaching while addressing topics such as financial aid literacy and cultural sensitivity. Students will also be able to receive enhanced tutoring support for select academic areas.


Steve Voorhies, manager of media relations
University Relations


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