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Dr. Pollard and Trinity University President Patricia McGuire kicked off the 2017-2018 Presidential Dialogue Series with a timely—and provocative—discussion of access to education for all and the role of education as a public good.

McGuire expounded on the achievement gap that exists in the US today. She said poverty and race go hand-in-hand in this country. She discussed how low-income children in the lower grades (K-12) struggle—and that the problem starts with parents who lack the skills to teach their children. “We at colleges and universities need to realize that education is not just for the higher degree,” she said, “but education needs to be a family enterprise.”

Dr. Pollard and McGuire also discussed the difficulty of today’s students meeting traditional student completion rates. McGuire noted that people do not go through college today like 18-year-olds did in 1950. She recalled Department of Education data that half of all students today are over the age of 23; 25 percent of undergraduates have children; and a large percentage of students are working, whether full-time or part-time. She said these data measurements work particularly against students of color.

McGuire talked about her own realization, years ago, about the work that higher education does. “Voices from the colleges and universities had to act as the counterweight to government,” she said. “Not only were we pathways for access for the citizens and the people, but we also had a function to hold government accountable and speak truth to power.”

McGuire, who serves more than 2,000 degree-seeking students, 70 percent who are African American—and 100 percent who receive financial aid—is a tireless advocate for all students, some marginalized from opportunity by race or poverty. She said, “Higher education is supposed to change the person, and the person is supposed to be empowered to be able to be a better citizen, a better leader, a better parent and to be able to participate in changing society for the better.”

For more information about the 2017-2018 dialogue series, entitled “Defining America: Dialogues across Difference,” visit

The upcoming events feature:

Seth Goldman
Co-founder, Honest Tea
Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 7 p.m.

Robert Green
Director, Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation
Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 7 p.m.

Joshua Johnson
Host of WAMU’s “1A” Program
Thursday, March 8, 2018, 7 p.m.

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