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Smiley to host college town hall


Media personality Tavis Smiley will host on Nov. 2 a free town hall discussion on “The future of Higher Education” at Cal State Long Beach(CSULB).

Scheduled from 10 to 11:30 a.m., the forum will discuss the most practical ways to obtain a college education and also look at why graduation rates are falling.

Studies indicate that, contrary to popular belief, many high school students do not go directly into college, particularly among minorities, and if they do, they start and stop due to the high cost of education. In fact, 40% of college students are over the age of 25, work full-time jobs, and have children. The discussion will look at efforts underway to “rethink” and “redesign” American colleges to work at their best so that every student can achieve not only during their studies, but in their respective careers and in life.

“Only four out of 10 Black and Latino college students graduate,” says Smiley. “That is a disturbing fact. The question becomes: How are colleges and universities adapting to the changing dynamics, demographics, and realities of their student bodies? Students who come from lower-income families are not able to compete with those who have money and opportunities. With the rising cost of higher education, many minorities are being left out.

“We need to look at how educational institutions are bridging this gap to help these students attain college educations. Low graduation rates have drastic societal ramifications in terms of economic opportunity and future success. We are looking into how colleges and universities, as well as K-12 school systems, are implementing policies and utilizing technologies to meet the needs of these students—and what still has to be done.”

CSULB was selected to host the discussion because of its progressive stance in dealing with these challenges.  Education leaders and the city of Long Beach have instituted “The Long Beach College Promise.”  In it, the city has extended a promise to ensure that every student in the Long Beach Unified School District receives a college education to create a more vibrant community.  This initiative begins in pre-kindergarten and continues throughout college.   The program has been lauded as a model to increase graduation rates and success for its students.

Panelists participating in the Long Beach town hall include CSULB President Jane Close Conoley;  Elroy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges; Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District; Cal State Long Beach student Kyari Cali; and Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Sponsors of “The Future of Higher Education” town hall event include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Enterprise. The event is presented by the Tavis Smiley Foundation.

For free registration to the event, visit