Washington University joins national initiative to attract talented, low-income students to top schools

American Talent Initiative launches with 30 founding member institutions

American Talent Initiative logoWashington University in St. Louis is among 30 of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities to join forces in a new initiative to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students who attend America’s top-performing undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates.

The American Talent Initiative (ATI), supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions united in this common goal. They are enhancing their individual efforts to recruit and support lower-income students while also learning from each other and contributing to research that will help other colleges and universities expand opportunity.

“Washington University in St. Louis is proud to be a part of the American Talent Initiative and to play a role in furthering a critical, shared goal among our partner institutions — ensuring that the doors to higher education are open to everyone, and that we are doing all we can to encourage our nation’s most talented young people to push themselves to realize their great potential,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton said. “By working together on strategies to increase access and affordability, we will gain momentum in our individual pursuits to create more socio-economically diverse student bodies. Our campuses, and the country, will be better and stronger thanks to those involved in working on the ATI.”

While the initial cohort of ATI partners comprises 30 schools, the initiative aims to welcome more of the 270 institutions of higher education with graduation rates of 70 percent or higher over the next few years. ATI members have set a goal of attracting, enrolling and graduating an additional 50,000 high-achieving, lower-income students at those 270 colleges and universities by 2025.

“If we’re serious about promoting social mobility in America, we need to ensure that every qualified high school student in the United States has an opportunity to attend college. I’m so glad that so many great colleges and universities have stepped up today and committed themselves towards that goal. This is a vital first step towards creating a more meritocratic society,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City.

Colleges and universities participating in the American Talent Initiative will further the national goal of developing more talent from every American neighborhood by:

  • Recruiting students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds through robust outreach;
  • Ensuring that admitted lower-income students enroll and are retained through practices that have been shown to be effective;
  • Prioritizing need-based financial aid; and
  • Minimizing or eliminating gaps in progression and graduation rates between and among students from low-, moderate- and high-income families.

Members will share lessons learned, as well as institutional data, annually publishing their progress toward meeting the national goal of 50,000 additional lower- income students by 2025. The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, the two not-for-profit organizations coordinating the initiative, will study the practices that lead to measurable progress and disseminate knowledge to the field through regular publications.

In addition to resources committed by ATI member institutions, the initiative is co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R and funded with an initial $1.7 million, multiyear grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Grant funding will be used for best-practice research and dissemination, meetings of college presidents and staff, and data analysis and reporting.

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