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President Spencer attends today’s White House summit on college opportunity

Bates President Clayton Spencer

Bates President Clayton Spencer

Bates President Clayton Spencer joins fellow U.S. higher education leaders at a White House summit on college opportunity hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama today, Jan. 16.

The event is bringing together college and university presidents and leaders from nonprofits, foundations, state governments and businesses across the country.

It is livestreamed at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Senior administration officials scheduled to join the discussion include Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In her first year at Bates, Spencer announced the Excellence and Opportunity initiative, to be funded in part by the $11.5 million Catalyst Fund gift from current and past members of the Bates College Board of Trustees.

The initiative reflects the college’s founding commitment to excellence and opportunity. “It is central to our mission and history,” Spencer said.

Established by abolitionists in 1855, Bates was from its beginning open to both men and women, recruiting students of limited means and matriculating African American students from the Civil War onward.

“Today this commitment means attracting and enrolling the very best students from a broad range of backgrounds and marshaling the resources to provide generous financial aid to support their education,” says Spencer. “Our current financial aid program of more than $30 million in Bates-funded grants per year reflects our resolve to uphold these values.”

President Clayton Spencer, who led the establishment of Harvard's Crimson Summer Academy, speaks at the program's 10th anniversary event on Oct. 30, 2013. (Rose Lincoln/Harvard)

Bates President Clayton Spencer, who led the establishment of Harvard’s Crimson Summer Academy, speaks at the program’s 10th anniversary event on Oct. 30, 2013. (Rose Lincoln/Harvard)

Forty-four percent of Bates students receive financial aid, and the average Bates financial aid package (grant, loan and student employment) is more than $40,000.

Counter to national trends in student debt, Bates financial aid is largely composed of outright grants, and students with loans graduate with an average debt load of approximately $17,000, compared to the national average of approximately $27,000.

“Any excellent liberal arts college, particularly one like Bates that has the advantage of a strong tradition of diversity matched by equally strong resources, has an ethical obligation to provide access to people who can’t afford the very high cost it takes to mount a highly personalized residential liberal arts education,” Spencer said.

Spencer, who has served as Bates president since 2012, is the former vice president for policy at Harvard University, where she played a central role in the reshaping and dramatic expansion of Harvard’s financial aid program and in the creation of the Crimson Summer Academy, a program that brings high-achieving, economically disadvantaged local students to study at Harvard for six weeks each summer.

Prior to Harvard, Spencer was chief education counsel for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources in the mid-1990s under its chair, the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.



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