Penn Joins American Talent Initiative in National Effort to Expand Access for High-achieving, Lower-income Students

The University of Pennsylvania has joined the American Talent Initiative in a national effort to attract, enroll and graduate more high-achieving, lower-income student at America’s top-performing undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates.

The American Talent Initiative brings together public and private institutions united in this common goal to attract, enroll and graduate 50,000 additional lower-income students by 2025.

Having been a first-generation, low-income college student herself, Penn President Amy Gutmann has more than doubled the number of students from low-income, middle-income and first-generation college families attending Penn, since she became president in 2004.

“I know firsthand, the tremendous impact increased access to higher education can have,” said President Gutmann. “Penn is steadfast in its commitment to providing access to talented high-achieving, low-income students and supporting them to graduate at higher rates. There is no better opportunity for economic growth for low-income families and no better pathway to cultivating creative understanding and ensuring a diverse democratic citizenship.”

ATI aims to welcome more of the 270 institutions with graduation rates of 70 percent or higher over the next few years in this effort. The member insitutions of ATI 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 and diversity.

The coalition of 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; and
  • Minimizing or eliminating gaps in progression and graduation rates between and among students from low-, moderate- and high-income families.

The initiative is co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R and funded with an initial $1.7 million, multi-year 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.

“If we're serious about promoting social mobility in America, we need to ensure that every qualified high school student in the US 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.

Members will share lessons learned as well as institutional data. The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R will study the practices that lead to measureable progress and disseminate knowledge to the field through regular publications.

Catherine Bond Hill, Ithaka S+R managing director and former Vassar president, said that “this Initiative speaks to fairness and equal opportunity for thousands of students who currently can’t claim either, and to the enormous societal benefit that comes from nurturing all of our most talented young people. 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.”

American Talent Initiative Higher Ed Leaders