Dec 4, 2014

FVCC Announces Commitment to Expand College Access at White House Event

Today, Flathead Valley Community College President Jane A. Karas, Ph.D., will join President Obama, the First Lady and Vice President Biden, along with hundreds of college presidents and other higher education leaders, to announce new actions to help more students prepare for and graduate from college.


The White House College Opportunity Day of Action helps to support the President’s commitment to partner with colleges and universities, business leaders and nonprofits to support students across the country to help our nation reach its goal of leading the world in college attainment.


To help reach this goal, Flathead Valley Community College has committed to increasing the number of graduates transferring from FVCC into four-year science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs by 15 percent in the next two years. The college has increased its focus on STEM-related initiatives by forming a faculty-driven STEM Research Committee to promote undergraduate research. From fall of last year to fall this year, 75 percent of students who took undergraduate research classes either graduated or continued their education at FVCC.


To promote STEM to the greater community, the college’s STEM faculty launched a weekly STEM Colloquium, providing opportunities for faculty and staff to showcase their research to the broader community. The colloquium has proven to be a popular event on campus, with many showcases filling rooms with STEM enthusiasts. At the K-12 level, FVCC Biology Associate Professor Ruth Wrightsman, Ph.D., has partnered with local ninth-grade biology teachers to perform DNA sequencing on native plants in their classes.


“Students at every stage of their educational careers benefit from authentic scientific research experiences,” said Karas.” A renewed focus on our STEM programs will provide support to these important fields by inspiring our students to be innovative thinkers and by equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in STEM careers.”


Today’s participants were asked to commit to new action in one of four areas: building networks of colleges around promoting completion, creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and increasing the number of college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.


The President will announce new steps on how his Administration is helping to support these actions, including announcing $10 million to help promote college completion and a $30 million AmeriCorps program that will improve low-income students’ access to college. Today’s event is the second College Opportunity Day of Action, and will include a progress report on the commitments made at the first day of action on January 14.


Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy and a strong middle class. Today, only 9 percent of those born in the lowest family income quartile attain a bachelor’s degree by age 25, compared to 54 percent in the top quartile. In an effort to expand college access, the Obama Administration has increased Pell scholarships by $1,000 a year, created the new American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, limited student loan payments to 10 percent of income, and laid out an ambitious agenda to reduce college costs and promote innovation and competition.