December 13, 2016
The University of Michigan is among 30 of the nation's most respected colleges and universities launching a new initiative to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at the country's top undergraduate institutions.
Called the American Talent Initiative, the effort is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and it brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions united in this common goal. The institutions are enhancing their own efforts to recruit and support lower-income students, learn from each other and contribute to research that will help other colleges and universities expand opportunity.
President Mark Schlissel says the new initiative fits perfectly with the university's own efforts to recruit and enroll high-achieving, low-income students.
"Talent is distributed evenly throughout our society, but opportunity most certainly is not," Schlissel says. "The University of Michigan is proud to partner on this historic initiative to address our nation's pressing need to ensure equal opportunities for students across the socioeconomic spectrum.
"Our commitment to the American Talent Initiative reflects the mission and values of a 200-year-old public university that is dedicated to developing leaders who will make a positive impact on society."
The alliance is focused on the more than 270 colleges and universities with graduation rates of 70 percent or higher. The goal is to attract, enroll and graduate 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students by 2025 as these colleges and universities join the alliance.
In the mid-20th century — with the G.I. Bill, the Higher Education Act and Civil Rights Act — the nation invested in and opened access to higher education for its citizens, characterizing a college degree as a path to success. Today, that degree is more critical than ever and it's incumbent upon educational institutions of all types to ensure that talented students from every part of society have access to an excellent education.
U-M recognizes that America's top-performing colleges have an important role to play in this effort.
Research shows that when high-achieving, lower-income students attend these institutions, they graduate at higher rates, and access to those institutions provides them with a greater chance of attaining leadership positions and opportunity throughout their lives. Yet in each graduating high school class, there are at least 12,500 lower-income students across the nation with outstanding academic credentials who do not enroll in an institution where at least 70 percent of students graduate.
These students have earned the opportunity these schools offer, but for a variety of reasons — including a lack of information about their options, confusion about costs, and inadequate financial aid offers — many of them simply lack access.
The American Talent Initiative seeks to ensure that these "missing" students have a path to attend and thrive at the institutions with the highest-graduation rates and best track records for post-graduate success.
U-M has two programs already in place designed to bring these students to the U-M campus.
The HAIL Scholarship is focused on enrolling high-achieving, low-income students from across the state of Michigan. Wolverine Pathways is a supplemental educational program operating in two Michigan K-12 school districts designed to help students prepare for college.
HAIL is now in the second year of a two-year pilot effort that is testing a new approach to reaching and enrolling these students. It provides resources that remove some of the barriers proven to stop some students from applying to the university. For students who apply and are accepted, the HAIL (High Achieving Involved Leader) Scholarship provides four years of free tuition — a value of about $60,000. This fall, 262 HAIL scholars were welcomed to campus after the first year of the program.
Wolverine Pathways is focused on middle school and high school students with year-round, after-school opportunities for learning, and the chance to get a feel for what college is like. It operates in Ypsilanti and Southfield now and will expand to Detroit next fall. For students who complete the program, apply to U-M and are accepted, they also receive four years of free tuition.
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.
• Minimizing or eliminating gaps in progression and graduation rates between and among students from low-, moderate- and high-income families.
Alliance member schools 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 measureable progress and disseminate knowledge to the field through regular publications.
Recent research suggests that at least 12,500 high school seniors per year have SAT scores in the top 10 percent with 3.7 grade point averages or higher — and still do not attend the top 270 colleges. If each of these institutions commits to do its share, an additional 50,000 talented students — 12,500 in each grade level — will benefit from the incredible opportunity these colleges and universities offer and that these students have earned.
Member institutions are committing their own resources to attract, enroll and graduate students at their individual campuses.
This initiative is funded with an initial $1.7 million, multiyear grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Grant funding will be used for best-practice research and dissemination, convenings of college presidents and staff and data analysis and reporting.