Obamas to host event on college costs

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host an event on college affordability next Thursday at the White House.

White House press secretary Jay Carney did not provide details about the event, but it is likely a rescheduling of a summit with college presidents and members of the private sector that had been planned for early last month. 

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The White House was forced to scrap that event when Obama traveled to the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The event is part of a broader White House push to emphasize the president's economic agenda before the State of the Union address. At a speech Thursday at the White House, Obama said he would look to “mobilize the country” around ensuring that all Americans had a fair shot of success.

“Anybody in this country who works hard should have a fair shot at success, period,” Obama said. “It doesn't matter where they come from, what region of the country, what they look like, what their last name is, they should be able to succeed.”

Obama also held a speech on unemployment insurance early in the week and announced that later this month he would host business executives at the White House for separate discussions on worker training programs and partnerships to help the long-term unemployed find work. Obama is also expected to promote high-tech manufacturing programs during a trip to North Carolina on Wednesday.

Before the canceled higher education event in December, Carney said the daylong conference would focus specifically on helping “young people from disadvantaged backgrounds” get into and complete college.

“This will include ensuring that we reach disadvantaged students early enough so that they are on a path to succeed in college and in their careers, and to help them wherever possible to match to the colleges where they are most likely to succeed,” Carney said.

In August, the administration announced the creation of a new ranking system designed to tamp down on rapidly escalating tuition costs. The Department of Education grades universities on their value to students, providing applicants with a clearer idea of which schools give students the best bang for their buck.

At the time, the president proposed tying federal aid to the rating system to incentivize schools to help their students graduate with an affordable education.

The president also called for a new $1 billion federal program that would be used to fund new programs designed to help students graduate with less debt. 

The White House wants to encourage universities to allow students to take classes at their own pace, complete introductory courses at community colleges, and offer rigorous online degree programs