The White House hosted college presidents, nonprofit organizations, and business leaders Thursday, January 16, for a summit that brought together President Obama’s economic mobility plans and his goal of increasing college completion rates for low-income students in America. More than 100 of America’s top universities and colleges were invited to attend the summit, among them Harvard, Yale, and Wellesley College.

The same day, the National Journal published an op-edby Wellesley President H. Kim Bottomly and Phillip B. Levine, Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics, discussing the summit and the importance of its message. “This focus on low-income students comes at a crucial time,” they wrote. “Socioeconomically, we are not diverse. The main cause of this problem is the lack of information regarding college costs; most low-income families often assume they cannot afford a private four-year college education and many high-achieving, low-income students don’t even bother to apply to selective schools.”

In September 2013, Wellesley launched My InTuition, a six-question personalized cost calculator that provides a preliminary tuition estimate for anyone with access to an Internet connection. Through the estimator and other outreach efforts, Wellesley is answering President Obama’s call to promote equal access to higher education. “Because many schools share a similar methodology for evaluating financial need, My InTuition can be easily adapted and implemented at other colleges,” said Levine, who developed the estimator.

Wellesley College's plans are spelled out in the White House report Commitments to Action on College Opportunity. In addition to outreach through My inTuition and other avenues, Wellesley will develop a new program to attract more low-income students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; and will enhance existing programs that offer support, mentoring, and preparation assistance for high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

President Obama closed yesterday’s summit with praise for another program that has Wellesley ties. He singled out a student from the The Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in New York City, which was co-founded by Kerry MacNeil ’93. Wellesley Professor of Education Barbara Beatty called both the program and MacNeil’s work “extraordinary.”

WHEELS helps underserved students find a path to good colleges; read more about it on the WHEELS website, and read 6 Questions to Measure the Cost of College in the National Journal.

Jerry Yu Qin, Swarthmore College, Communications and Public Affairs Extern, contributed to this report.