Whittier College President Participates in White House College Summit

Whittier College President Sharon Herzberger joined fellow higher education leaders at the White House today for a meeting with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to discuss how to increase access to college for low-income students.  

“I am very pleased that the White House is focusing on the important issue of college access and enhancing the competitiveness of this nation by creating college campuses that reflect the socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our country,” said Herzberger. “At Whittier College we see ourselves as a model for the nation on how to  enroll and graduate a diverse student body. 

“That said, we know we can always do more to help first-generation and low-income students apply, enroll, and graduate from a top liberal arts college like Whittier. We are committed to doing more.”

The presidents attending the summit have made voluntary pledges to ramp-up efforts to assist low-income students in enrolling in and completing college (click here to read more). Whittier College pledged to take steps to accomplish this goal by building on current successful efforts in partnerships with local local high schools, private foundations, and community colleges.  


Whittier will partner with American Honors and several community colleges to develop an honors-level general education program that, when combined with existing community college courses, will prepare 300 associate degree graduates annually to transfer successfully to elite colleges and universities. 

Currently, to help students reduce the cost of their education, Whittier recruits 15% of its students from those attending community colleges and is establishing a set of “2+2” programs and articulation agreements.  


Whittier, in partnership with the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation, will offer tuition-free advanced math courses and a summer intensive, college writing seminar to college-aspiring students from El Rancho High School, in Pico Rivera, California, a predominantly Latino city with a 12 percent college graduation rate. This project supports the goals of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Generation 1st Degree initiative to increase the rate of Latino college graduates to 60 percent by 2025, with a college degree in each household.

Currently, Whittier supports two local high schools by enrolling talented students in advanced calculus courses, with El Rancho becoming the third.  Whittier already provides other support to El Rancho High School including a college mentor program, hosting a Saturday series with the Be A Leader Foundation to help 100 seniors navigate the college application process, and providing critiques of draft application essays by college admissions counselors.

Since the 1990s Whittier has been designated as an HSI, a distinction among the national liberal arts colleges; currently 33 percent of Whittier students are Latino. For the last four years Whittier has enrolled a “minority majority” with 52 percent students of color.  Moreover, one-third of Whittier’s students are the first in their families to attend college.‎ Standing among the top 4 percent in the nation sending students to graduate studies in the life sciences, Whittier is an exemplary model of student success.

Whittier College was one of a handful of Southern California colleges and universities invited to the summit. In total, about 140 presidents from community colleges, private institutions, and public universities were in attendance.

Click here to read more in the Whittier Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and President Herzberger's blog.