Dr. Gail O. Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, to Participate in Washington, D.C. Forum Examining Higher Education Financing

Long Island City, NY—October 11, 2013—Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College and a national leader in higher education, on October 21 will join a group of prominent educators at a Washington, D.C. forum to discuss how new policies to refinance higher education can improve students’ chances of completing their college education.  Dr. Mellow is the only community college president participating in the event.

At the Hamilton Project forum at Brookings, Dr. Mellow will participate in a roundtable discussion to examine a policy proposal that looks at innovative ways to restructure the Pell Grant program, a one-size-fits-all federal voucher for high school students from low-income families that has not been revised since its inception in 1972.

“For 41 years this federal program has remained static while the economy and the student population has dramatically changed,” said Dr. Mellow, who added that the majority of LaGuardia students, many of whom are non-traditional students, are eligible for federal grants.  “This forum is an important step in adopting modern financing approaches that can better serve a more diverse higher-education student population.”

In the roundtable discussion Dr. Mellow and Dr. Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College, will discuss a proposal that lays out three structural reforms designed to fit the needs of the 21st century economy and student population. The reforms call for augmenting the program’s financial support with guidance and support services; dramatically simplifying eligibility and the application process; and strengthening incentives for timely completion.

The two educators will be joined by the proposal’s two authors, Dr. Sandy Baum, research professor of the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development; and Dr. Judith Scott-Clayton, assistant professor of economics and education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

In a recent NPR interview, Dr. Baum explained the problem with the present Pell Grant program.   “We have always known that the completion rates are lower than what we’d like them to be.  But what we really learned was that there are so many students who are not the traditional Pell Grant student, who are not young people from low-income families but rather are adults seeking to improve their labor force opportunities.  So understanding how important Pell Grants are to these students, and how poorly designed they are to actually serve these students, was something of an awakening.”

The group will also discuss a new paper, written by Dr. Phillip Levine of Wellesley College, that describes the college’s new “quick college cost estimator” and a proposal for expanding the model to other higher education institutions.

Also attending the forum will be former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger C. Altman, two of The Hamilton Project’s founders.  Other leading educators who were invited included, Francisco G. Cigarroa, chancellor of University of Texas; Thomas Ross, president of the University of North Carolina; Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University; and Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, education policy director at the Brookings’ Brown Center.

The Hamilton Project, which was launched in 2006 as an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution, provides a platform for a broad range of leading economic thinkers to inject innovative and pragmatic policy options into the national debate.  It offers proposals rooted in evidence and experience, not doctrine and ideology, and brings those ideas to bear on policy debates in relevant and effective ways.

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.