What the White House Wants From Colleges

Roundup: Next year's summit on higher ed will focus on strategies to improve graduation rates for more lower-income kids.

US President Barack Obama (R) makes remarks with Dr. Jill Biden during the first White House Summit on Community Colleges, an event to highlight the critical role that community colleges play in developing America's workforce and reaching educational goals on October 5, 2010 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / TIM SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images) (National Journal)

Every week, The Next America produces a collection of education articles that catch our eye. These date from Dec. 2-9.

The Obama Administration's Recruitment Wish List. The White House wants participants in a higher-education summit to commit to a concrete step that would help more low-income students graduate. The administration's suggestions for institutions include setting specific targets for low-income enrollment, partnering with local school districts and community colleges, and making remediation more relevant. The event, originally scheduled for Wednesday, will likely be held in January as the president and first lady will attend Nelson Mandela's memorial service in South Africa. Chronicle of Higher Education

Schools Step Away From Harsh Discipline Policies. Large urban districts are rethinking zero-tolerance policies, which are linked to arrest records, low academic achievement, and high dropout rates that particularly affect minority students. Districts like Broward County, Fla., are keeping students who commit minor, nonviolent offenses in school and offering them counseling rather than calling the police. New York Times

Takeaways from PISA. The most recent data from the Programme for International Student Assessment, a test taken by 15-year-olds around the world, show that U.S. students are pretty much in the middle of the pack when it comes to math, reading, and science test scores. Interestingly, socioeconomic differences have a bigger influence on test scores here than in other countries, and fewer low-income students outperform expectations. The Atlantic

How Much Student Debt Is Normal? Student debt can range from less than $5,000 per year to almost $50,000 per borrower, according to a report from the Institute for College Access and Success. In 2011-12, 71 percent of those seeking a bachelor's degree had student debt, compared with 68 percent of students four years earlier. New York Times

The Amazing Shrinking Lunch Hour. At many public schools today, students get just 15 minutes or less to sit down and eat lunch. Federally subsidized school meals are often the only thing standing between low-income children and hunger, and federal standards try to ensure that students get nutritious meals. But what's the point of providing healthy fare if students don't have time to eat it? NPR

First-Generation Students Least Sure of Their Majors. First-generation college students who select a major when they take the ACT are less sure of their choices than their peers with better-educated parents. Thirty percent of boys whose parents earned a graduate degree or higher were sure of their future majors, compared with 45 percent of boys whose parents had never gone to college. Overall, only 36 percent of test-takers in the class of 2013 selected a planned major that's a good fit for their interests. ACT