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Obama, First Lady Present New Agenda for Low-Income College Students

Dorothy Rowley | 1/16/2014, 11 p.m.
The Obama administration is pushing to help more low-income students afford and graduate from college.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Troy Simon, a student at Bard College, backstage prior to the College Opportunity Summit at the White House on Jan. 16, 2014. (Pete Souza/The White House)

He decided to change his life by reconnecting with his fifth-grade teacher to work on school assignments, eventually enrolling in the Urban League's "College Track" program, which he credits with his academic and social achievement.

Today, Simon said he gives back by keeping up with his studies and steering other students toward higher education.

Mrs. Obama, whom Simon introduced at the forum, said it is imperative for everyone to make education a priority as Simon has.

"These kids are smart, they will notice if we're not holding up our end of the bargain," she said. "They will notice if we tell them about applying for college or financial aid, but then no one is there to help them choose the right school or fill out the right forms. They will notice if we tell them that they're good enough to graduate from college, but then no college asks them to apply, no college invites them to visit their campus."

The first lady added that with good support systems in place, thousands of disadvantaged youth can be as fortunate as she and her husband were to attend prestigious schools such as Harvard and Princeton.

"The truth is that if Princeton hadn't found my brother as a basketball recruit, and if I hadn't seen that he could succeed on a campus like that, it never would have occurred to me to apply to that school — never," Mrs. Obama said. "And I know that there are so many kids out there just like me: kids who have a world of potential, but maybe their parents never went to college or maybe they've never been encouraged to believe they could succeed there."