A new nationwide consortium of leading colleges and universities catalyzed by Franklin & Marshall College's leadership in developing a successful talent strategy to expand college opportunity has announced its goal to add 50,000 high-achieving students from low-income communities to the enrollments at America's top colleges by 2025.
As reported in The New York Times, Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer, the American Talent Initiative (ATI) was announced on Dec. 13 with an initial $1.7 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and 30 prestigious institutions as founding members, among them F&M, Amherst, Duke, Harvard, Pomona, Princeton, Stanford, UC-Berkeley and Williams. With coordination and research support from the Aspen College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, the partnership also has the goal of adding at least 100 more colleges and universities to the effort in the next few years.
"Dan Porterfield and Franklin & Marshall led us to this initiative," said Joshua Wyner, vice president and executive director of the Aspen College Excellence Program, referring to F&M's efforts to attract and enroll more high-performing students through expanded financial aid and new partnerships with leading K-12 school networks and college access programs. "The Next Generation Initiative has proved that there is a huge reservoir of student talent all across America, in every community. The ATI aims to connect the essential talent development programs F&M and other top colleges have created and help replicate them across the 270 colleges and universities that have the highest graduation rates — to the benefit of all students and society."
Porterfield explains, "The ATI is a case study in how bold philanthropy, a leading college and policy experts can work together to serve the common good. In 2013, F&M and Bloomberg Philanthropies convened education leaders in New York City for two workshops that identified expanding college opportunity for high-achieving low-income students as a national priority. This led Bloomberg Philanthropies to invest in two innovative new programs. First, in 2014, Bloomberg funded the College Point initiative, through which recent college graduates are providing college counseling to 25,000 top high school students per year around the country. Now, the Philanthropies' second investment in the American Talent Initiative will mean that the doors of excellent colleges will open even more widely to those students."
Current research indicates that each year in the United States, at least 12,500 highly qualified low- and moderate-income students don't get the college opportunities they've earned. This "undermatching" has life-long consequences, because additional research shows that when these kinds of students attend top colleges, they are much more likely to graduate — providing them with much greater career earning potential and improved chances of ascending into leadership opportunities throughout their lives.
“If we're serious about promoting social mobility in America, we need to ensure that every qualified high school student in the U.S. 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.
"For the future of our country, talent must be allowed to rise. America faces real challenges that cannot be solved without new leaders drawn from a broader circle of talented students. From public health to international diplomacy to countering terrorism, these are areas of work where diverse leadership and diverse teams strengthen our nation's ability to achieve our goals," said Porterfield. "We can ensure a stronger democracy, more vibrant economy, and healthier shared future by empowering leaders from all communities in all zip codes to take their place at the table."
Porterfield is a founding member, along with Wyner, of the ATI Steering Committee, which will coordinate the project and develop a research agenda to build national awareness of the importance of securing college opportunity for students who have earned it. Other members include Chris Eisgruber, president of Princeton University; Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington; Michael Drake, president of Ohio State University; Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College; and Martin Kurzweil, director of the Educational Transformation Program with Ithaka S+R.
Since embarking on its Next Generation Initiative, F&M has raised the proportion of incoming students eligible for Pell Grants from 5 percent for the Class of 2012 to 19 percent for the Class of 2020. These students are succeeding academically. The first- to second-year retention rates for first-generation and Pell Grant recipients are higher than the average for the student body overall. These cohorts also have the same GPA as the student body as a whole, and graduate at the same rate. Most of F&M's recent national fellowship winners are the first in their families to graduate from college.
Colleges and universities participating in or joining the ATI must consistently graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years or less, a universe that today includes 270 institutions educating roughly 2 million students annually. Each ATI school commits to:
- step up its own efforts to enroll and integrate Pell-eligible students on campus so that they are supported, graduate, and are positioned to succeed during and after college;
- share what it learns about making progress toward this goal with other ATI participants and with the broader higher education community and the public; and
- lead the way for other top colleges so that the initiative can achieve a national goal of 50,000 new students enrolled at the top 270 colleges and universities every year by 2025
They will also:
- raise public- and private-sector awareness about the “missing” talent in these schools;
- create momentum among leaders in higher education to act on improving access and success for low- to moderate-income students; and
- disseminate research detailing proven and promising strategies for increasing opportunity and access
ATI member institutions will begin executing their respective plans in 2017 and the initiative expects most to achieve measurable results in 2018 or 2019.
In addition to F&M, liberal arts colleges participating in ATI include Amherst, Bates, Davidson, Dartmouth, Lehigh, Pomona, Spelman, Vassar, and Williams.
Private universities among the initial 30 ATI institutions include Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Vanderbilt, University of Richmond, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale.
Public universities in ATI include Georgia Institute of Technology, The Ohio State University, University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, University of Maryland-College Park, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington.