Obama targets young voters with Dec. 11 college summit

Obama targets young voters with Dec. 11 college summit

President Barack Obama is summoning college presidents and business leaders to a daylong Dec. 11 summit at the White House to discuss specific ways to make higher education more accessible to low-income students, Yahoo News has learned.

The event — clearly designed to appeal to young voters and minorities, who were core parts of Obama’s winning coalitions in 2008 and 2012 — is part of a campaign-style blitz meant to salvage his second term. The White House and Democrats hope the effort helps to turn the 2014 midterm elections from a referendum on the Obamacare rollout debacle into a choice between the president’s policies and those of his Republican opponents.

On Tuesday, Obama will spearhead an effort to shift the conversation about Obamacare from its botched rollout to its benefits — and what Republicans would take away if they repealed it. That comes after weeks of trips meant to highlight his efforts to bolster the economy, and his eagerness for overhauling the nation’s immigration policies.

On Wednesday, he plans to give another speech on the economy.

While the politics of paying for college could be a winner for Obama, who used that as a weapon in 2012, close aides describe him as “obsessed” with making college more affordable.

The White House announced plans for the summit in mid-December but did not give a date. At the time, spokesman Jay Carney said the central goal would be “ensuring that we reach disadvantaged students early enough so that they are on a path to succeed in college and in their careers, and to help them wherever possible to match to the colleges where they are most likely to succeed.”

Next week’s summit builds on a secret Nov. 13 meeting between National Economic Council director Gene Sperling and a handful of college presidents, a well-placed source told Yahoo News.

The message? We need fresh commitments from the higher education community, philanthropists, the private sector, and city and state leaders “to increase college access and success for low-income and disadvantaged students,” the source said.

The meeting included college presidents from Davidson, Franklin & Marshall, Georgetown, Goucher, Hobart and William Smith, Oberlin, Skidmore, Washington & Jefferson and Whittier.

Presidents invited to next week’s session have been asked to return to Washington with specific ideas about how to achieve the central goal — to be joined by White House-hatched initiatives. It was unclear whether the gathering would produce any specific legislation.

“We want to use this event as an opportunity to see how we can scale up the most successful approaches to helping students reach and succeed in college,” Carney said Nov. 13.

The Dec. 11 summit is being run by the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Department of Education, and will serve as the launching pad for a college affordability drive that will likely run for months — potentially right up to the November 2014 elections. First lady Michelle Obama is expected to play a role in next week’s kickoff event and going forward.

The summit will resemble a college affordability symposium — public remarks blended with panels and breakout sessions. College presidents also will sit down with administration officials the evening of Dec. 10.

As Yahoo News reported months ago, the Obama White House has provided a pretty useful tool for aspiring college students and their families. The College Scorecard provides an at-a-glance description of individual institutions of higher education, including important nuggets like annual cost, graduation rates and student loan default rates. (If you went to college and want to feel old, put in your alma mater.)

The Department of Labor rounds out the picture by helping students figure out what they can expect from different professional fields in terms of salary — obviously a factor, given the weight of graduate debt. (The department's Bureau of Labor Statistics also has an online tool.)

A student eager to become a reporter might think twice after consulting the My Next Move calculator. The field's median pay is $35,870 (that's not median entry pay, either). The site reports the glum news that "new job opportunities are less likely in the future" but notes, "This work is part of the green economy." Huzzah?

Podiatrists have a median salary of $118,030, according to the BLS.