- One hundred of the nation's top colleges and universities have joined a consortium pledging to enroll and graduate 50,000 low-income students by 2025, NPR reports. The American Talent Initiative, funded with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R, requires that member schools graduate 70% of their students in six years.
- Several of the institutions are also seeking to increase the Pell Grant recipient enrollment or graduation rates, and they agree to share best practices and data to help other schools monitor progress in key improvement areas.
- Data suggests that just 3% of the enrollment at the nation's top institutions is comprised of low-income students, something that University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says the Initiative is committed to improving. "There's no data to suggest that if you happen to be born into a less well-to-do family you are somehow less intelligent. The challenge for us is to recruit them and make it financially viable for them."
While the Initiative promises greater access for low-income students to some of the nation's greatest training grounds, it also presents a certain threat to less-selective institutions like community and minority-serving schools. These schools aim to recruit the best and the brightest to promote their diversity, but this initiative and others like it at individual schools will bring the resources and brand appeal to make the decision much harder for students in areas typically not served by such institutions. Smaller institutions will have to consider new ways to market to high achieving students in secondary districts that are beyond usual recruiting areas, in order to keep pace with the recruitment effort larger institutions will implement to meet goals for landing low-income students.
For the elite institutions, the concern has to be retention and the ability to move low-income students from one socio-economic status to a higher level, something that mid-level institutions are the best at doing. But there is still a concern about institutional culture and whether these institutions are set up to make students from lower-income or racial minority backgrounds feel wanted and included on campus. UCLA Assistant Professor of higher education and organizational change Ozan Jaquette said in a recent interview that the high population of students from more affluent families, often with less exposure to people from diverse backgrounds, can make students whose paths to college were much different feel uncomfortable, even mistreating, alienating or ignoring these students who already may feel they don't belong in college.