Inside Higher Ed reports on a summit at which President Obama tried to enlist college presidents as allies:
Wednesday’s summit was, politically, the administration’s latest effort to advance its agenda in a gridlocked Congress. Obama reiterated Wednesday that he had (and would use) a "pen to take executive actions where Congress won’t, and I’ve got a telephone to rally folks around the country on this mission.”
For college leaders, the price of admission to the event was to make a “new commitment” to helping more low-income students attend and complete college. More than 100 college presidents and 40 organizations made promises, which the White House unveiled Thursday.
He praised the new commitments by college leaders as “an extraordinary accomplishment,” adding that he “didn’t pass a bill to do it.”
Instead of focusing on price and accountability, as he had in the past, the president and his staff used the White House setting as what a fictional president called "the single greatest home-court advantage in the modern world."
[Economic adviser Gene] Sperling, in closing the summit, suggested that attendees send him and his White House colleagues recommendations and thoughts in advance of the president’s upcoming State of the Union address -- a venue Obama has in previous years used to put colleges “on notice” about their rising tuition and propose accountability measures. He insinuated that a mention in the prominent speech could await those who have particularly innovative suggestions.
The event also allowed the dozens of participating campus leaders to use the stature of White House attention to bolster publicity for their campuses. College press offices eagerly shot out advisories about their commitments, and a handful of presidents held a news conference against the backdrop of the West Wing.In return, the president surely hopes, the attendees will say nice things about him, or at least refrain from saying bad things.
Presidents snapped photos of the President and First Lady on their phones and iPads. Several dozen presidents met with top administration officials in an off-the-record dinner sponsored by the Lumina Foundation on Wednesday night. And at least one enjoyed a trip to the conference on Air Force One.