Top Colleges Unite to Enroll and Graduate More Talented Low-Income Students

By Bridget DeSimone, March 1, 2017


This time of year, the nation’s most competitive colleges and universities are poring over piles of applications, searching for the best and brightest high school seniors to recruit to their schools. But when it comes time to enroll, thousands of talented students are missing from the picture.

Every year, more than 12,500 high-achieving, lower-income students who are eligible to attend top-tier colleges and universities don’t enroll.

That’s why the presidents of more than 50 top colleges are joining forces to create the new American Talent Initiative (ATI). ATI is dedicated to one goal: to attract, enroll and graduate an additional 50,000 high-achieving, lower-income students at the 270 colleges and universities that consistently graduate 70% or more of their students.

ATI comprises a diverse array of institutions: Ivy League colleges including Harvard, Princeton and Yale; large public schools including Ohio State, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington; and small liberal arts colleges including Amherst, Davidson and Franklin & Marshall. ATI is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and managed by the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R.

ATI member presidents met with Michael Bloomberg in New York to start mapping the way forward.
ATI member presidents met with Michael Bloomberg in New York to start mapping the way forward.

Many ATI members have been working on their own campuses to increase access for talented lower-income students. But collectively at these top schools, fewer than one in four students comes from a family in the lowest 50% of incomes. These schools realize that there is more work to do to tackle this problem. They know they can make a bigger impact together than alone.

ATI member schools are committed to stepping up their efforts to attract and enroll more talented lower-income students. They will learn from each other how to best support these students so that they graduate. And all along the way, they will collect and share data with one another and publish research to share with the field.

ATI has already spurred enormous interest from dozens of other institutions, all prepared to commit to increasing their numbers of lower-income, high achieving students. In just over two months, ATI’s membership has nearly doubled.

Watch this space for progress towards reaching the 50,000-student goal. Stay tuned!

To learn more, check out this CNN video of Ohio State University president Dr. Michael Drake explaining why his university is committed to ATI’s goal.

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