Prof. Castleman Attends White House Summit on College Access Plan


Ben Castleman, an assistant professor at the Curry School of Education and researcher at EdPolicyWorks, attended a day-long summit yesterday at the White House at the invitation of President Obama.

Ben CastlemanThis summit was dedicated to launching a plan of action to increase college access and success for low-income and disadvantaged students. Underscoring the White Houses’ commitment to this issue, both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended the event. Joining the First Couple were leading experts from across the country, including college presidents, philanthropic foundation representatives, and researchers.

“It is a real honor to be invited to this event, alongside U.Va’s President Teresa Sullivan” said Castleman. “It was an unique opportunity to interact with college presidents and others who have a common goal of helping more low-income first generation students go to college.”

Castleman’s research examines innovative strategies to deliver high-quality information about the college-going process to low-income students and their families, and to ease the process of students and families getting professional support when they need assistance.

Work by Castleman was also cited at the summit. His research on summer melt and text messaging, as well as new projects he is collaborating on with other attendees at the Summit, was mentioned in speeches by Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council, and by the President and First Lady of the United States.

“It was exciting to be involved in discussions about how we think about strategies that support students in their decision making process as they transition to college,” added Castleman, who also had an opportunity to meet with United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

Arne Duncan, US Secretary of EducationAs part of the summit, the White House asked each attendee and their organization to make a commitment to increase college opportunity. For Castleman and U.Va this included “identifying high-achieving, low-income students who are qualified for admission to U.Va and send them personalized messages to increase their understanding of college costs, need-based financial aid, and net price.” Other commitments included “strengthening partnerships with high schools in low-income areas of the state, provide opportunities for low-income students to visit the University without cost, and provide students with peer and faculty mentors.”

In August, the Obama administration announced the creation of a new ranking system designed to tamp down on rapidly escalating tuition costs, a major roadblock to higher education for students from low-income households. The system should provide applicants with a clearer idea of which schools give students the best “bang for their buck,” in hopes of helping students graduate with less debt.

For U.Va this also means building on existing efforts such as the Virginia College Advising Corps which U.Va launched in 2005. This was also mentioned in the commitments asked by the current Administration.

The summit was jointly coordinated by the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Department of Education. This event was the kick-off of an ongoing effort over the coming months.

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Other news outlets also covered Castleman and U.Va at the summit:

The Washington Post Local “U.Va. officials attend White House meeting.”

The Daily Progress “Obama mentions UVa in speech about college affordability

The Roanoke Times “UVa officials attend White House summit

The Cavalier Daily “Presidential summit spotlights University outreach program