University recommits to American Talent Initiative

Alliance of 334 colleges and universities aims to graduate 50,000 additional lower-income students by 2025

Chancellor Andrew Martin announced the WashU Pledge during his 2019 inauguration ceremony in Brookings Quadrangle. (Photo: Jerry Naunheim Jr./Washington University)

Washington University in St. Louis has renewed its commitment to the American Talent Initiative (ATI)’s Accelerating Opportunity campaign, a nationwide effort to graduate an additional 50,000 low- and moderate-income students from ATI member colleges and universities by 2025.

“The American Talent Initiative has been a terrific partner to Washington University as we work to break down the barriers that stand between low- and moderate-income students and a WashU education,” said Chancellor Andrew D Martin, an ambassador to the campaign. “I am proud to represent an organization that recognizes the urgency of cultivating and supporting talented young people regardless of their financial background.” 

ATI is an alliance of 334 colleges and universities that graduate at least 70% of their students in six years. Founded in 2016, the initiative researches and elevates best practices in the recruitment and support of low- and moderate-income students and promotes successful strategies at member institutions.

At Washington University, these efforts include:

Deneb STARS, an innovative cohort program, celebrates the cultural wealth that lower-income and first-generation students bring to Washington University. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)
  • The WashU Pledge: In 2019, Martin announced a bold initiative to provide a free undergraduate education to incoming, full-time students from Missouri and southern Illinois who are Pell Grant-eligible or from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less. The WashU Pledge covers the full cost of a Washington University education, including tuition, room, board and fees. 
  • Chancellor’s Career Fellows Program: This new initiative provides a comprehensive, fully funded career education experience for select WashU first- and second-year students whose family income is less than $75,000, with a preference for students who are the first in their families to attend college. Fellows are enrolled in a one-credit class, where they receive personalized career planning and coaching and receive a stipend of up to $5,000 for unpaid or underpaid summer internships.
  • First Year Grants: In an effort to help lower-income first-year students transition to college, the university offers three startup grants: $1,115 for a computer; $500 for books and class materials; and $1,000 for school supplies, residential hall supplies and winter clothing. 
  • Student Success Fund: In April, Washington University alumnus and emeritus trustee John Dains made an $8 million gift to the university’s Student Success Fund, which covers emergency and educational enrichment expenses, such as trip home for a family emergency, a suit for a job interview or registration fees for an academic conference. The gift is believed to be one of the largest to a university student support initiative.
  • Deneb STARS: A cohort program that provides community and academic support, the Deneb STARS program is now 660 members strong and celebrates the cultural wealth that low-income and first-generation students bring to Washington University.   
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