University recognized as American Talent Initiative High-Flier

Since ATI’s launch in 2016, WashU has top growth rate in Pell enrollment among 137 peers

Bloomberg Philanthropies has recognized Washington University in St. Louis as an American Talent Initiative (ATI) High-Flier, a group of 28 high-graduation-rate institutions that are national leaders in college access and success for lower-income students. Washington University received the distinction for making the greatest gains in lower-income student enrollment since 2015-16 and for its innovative recruitment, enrollment and retention practices.

“At WashU, we’ve come a long way in our efforts to increase access for all deserving students and to enhance the student experience through peer and professional mentorship, expanded services in health and well-being, financial support for unexpected expenses and meaningful career preparation,” Chancellor Andrew D. Martin said. “The American Talent Initiative has been an important partner in this work, helping us identify and implement programs and practices that are making a real difference in the lives of our students.”

As of fall 2022, Washington University was the top grower in Pell Grant-eligible student enrollment among its 137 peers. Twenty percent of the Class of 2026 is Pell eligible; university leaders expect 20% of the Class of 2027 to be Pell eligible as well. 

Washington University has launched a number of innovative initiatives to recruit and support limited-income students. In 2021, the university unveiled Gateway to Success, an $800 million investment in endowed funding to support need-blind undergraduate admissions — long a top goal for the university. Then, in 2022, the university launched Make Way: Our Student Initiative, which is funding programs and resources that deliver a best-in-class campus experience. And this year, the university announced the Taylor Family Center for Student Success, which connects limited-income undergraduate students to mentors, professional networks and purpose-driven internships.

An initiative led by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, ATI serves as a growing nationwide alliance of high-graduation-rate colleges and universities grounded in the belief that they can collectively expand access for tens of thousands of high-achieving, lower-income students. By doing so, these institutions are increasing socioeconomic diversity within their respective student communities.

“The economic fallout from the pandemic has made it even more important for schools across the country to adopt innovative new ways to attract and retain students from underrepresented backgrounds,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City. “I applaud ATI’s 28 High-Fliers for leading the way in this work and increasing the diversity of their campuses. We hope their efforts serve as an example for other schools that are committed to creating opportunity for more lower-income students, so we can accelerate national progress on this critical challenge.”

As a result of Washington University’s leadership in ATI and the Accelerating Opportunity campaign, thousands of additional lower-income students across the United States are accessing and earning bachelor’s degrees. Data shows students like Blake Comeaux, who graduated from WashU this month with a degree in philosophy from Arts & Sciences, are historically more likely to have higher wages, pursue graduate degrees, become entrepreneurs and engage in their communities.

“As an undergraduate, I’ve had the rare opportunity to serve as an intern at both a public defender’s office in Alaska and at the United States Attorney’s Office in St. Louis,” said Comeaux, who will enter Washington University’s School of Law in the fall. “Those experiences would not have been possible for me without the career education and stipend support I received from WashU.”

View the full list of American Talent Initiative High-Fliers.

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