February 5, 1998 in Nation/World

Clinton Encourages College Education New Program Would Provide Mentors To Inspire Low-Income Students To Go To College

Katharine Q. Seelye New York Times
 

As part of his efforts to encourage students to attend college, President Clinton said Wednesday that he wants to provide mentors to low-income students to help guide them toward college.

The president’s budget proposal for fiscal 1999 provides $140 million to match mentors with students and envisions $70 million more in 2000 and in 2001. Clinton said that within five years, more than 1 million students would have a “guardian angel” to provide them with both information and inspiration to earn a college degree.

“In every community in this country, there are children with enormous ability who just need a little spark to go on to great things,” the president said in an East Room ceremony announcing the program, which would provide mentors to low-income students beginning no later than the seventh grade.

The proposal, which Clinton first suggested in his State of the Union address last week, already has many co-sponsors in Congress, including several Republicans.

It would encourage colleges to adopt middle schools and high schools where more than half the students are below the poverty level and provide them with mentors during study hall periods to give them advice.

“Trained mentors and role models will help children pick challenging courses, tutor them when they need some extra help, take them on college visits and other academic field trips and help them in the college application process,” Clinton said.

White House officials said college graduates can expect to earn at least $600,000 more over their lifetimes than high school graduates earn, an amount that has doubled in the last 15 years. Yet, the officials said, only 43 percent of children from low-income families enroll in college after high school compared with 83 percent of children from higher-income families.

Clinton said that because of various grants and loans, college is affordable for everyone now but many families do not know that. So, he said, he wants each family to receive a certificate telling it how much financial aid might be available. And he wants each family to receive this information well in advance of when its child would be attending college so the child can start preparing and take the proper courses.

Clinton’s proposal originated with Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who based it on programs in Philadelphia that provide low-income students with support and encouragement to go to college.

Clinton said that although he grew up with little money, he always expected to go to college because people expected it of him.

“Everybody told me I was going to college,” he said. “It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t go to college. And yet, no one in my family had ever been to college before. I was in an environment that made it very difficult for me to fail. That’s the environment I want for every child in America.”

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FINDING MENTORS

The plan would encourage colleges to adopt middle schools and high schools where more than half the students are below the poverty level and provide them with mentors.


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