Advancing Equity in Times of Crisis
ATI's collective voice brings important visibility to issues of educational equity—and the commitment that leading institutions need to undertake to address them. The Initiative's work to facilitate and share best practices can enable all institutions to improve enrollment and retention of lower-income students.
Q: What are the steps individual institutions can take to build on their progress toward these goals in the coming academic year?
Individual institutions can build strong pipelines to the K-12 community, improve educational equity by reducing graduation gaps between low-income & higher-income students, expand affordability by increasing the number of low- and middle-income students whose tuition charges are completely covered by gift aid; and invest in measures to increase retention/graduation rates.
As a result, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities' four-year graduation rates for incoming Pell recipient freshmen have more than doubled in the past decade. Over the same period, six-year graduation rates for those students have increased by nearly 20 percentage points, with graduation rate gaps narrowing considerably (from 19.39% to 12.16% within four years and from 11.36% to 7.97% within six years).
And since 2012, we have successfully increased the number of Minnesota-based freshmen with tuition charges fully covered by gift aid by nearly 20 percentage points, an investment that has paid significant dividends for our institution.
The University of Minnesota is also committed to centering the voices and experiences of our Black communities, Indigenous populations, and communities of color to dismantle systemic racism—and to applying our expertise, resources, and abilities to drive action that is sustainable and has meaning. This work is ongoing with a focus on shared governance.
Q: What will it take as a field to maintain commitments to the goals we have set as an initiative to improve access and success for lower-income students?
ATI’s collective voice brings important visibility to issues of educational equity—and the commitment that leading institutions need to undertake to address them. The Initiative's work to facilitate and share best practices can enable all institutions to improve enrollment and retention of lower-income students.
Ultimately, ATI institutions need to redouble efforts to increase financial support for our low-income students.
To this end, at the University of Minnesota, we have just established a $15 million Bentson Challenge, with the support of a gift from the Bentson Foundation. The grant will help us match that $15 million investment, an effort explicitly devoted to advancing equity and opportunity on our campus. What this enables us to do is to provide up to a possible $45 million in increased support for our low-income students. We envision this concept will allow us to cover Pell-eligible students up to the full cost of attendance, a significant step toward realizing the goals we have set as an ATI member.
This important work is also part of a larger goal through our University’s new MPact 2025 systemwide strategic plan to reduce financial barriers to student achievement, and more particularly, to increase aid targeted to students with demonstrated need.
Q: How can institutions also use the collective platform and mission of ATI to address systemic racism?
Institutions can leverage the primary goal of ATI—to provide support for low-income and first-generation students—to help ameliorate the consequences of systemic racism.
While data informs us that low-income students come from a variety of backgrounds and contexts, we find that students of color here at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities are more than three times as likely to have low family incomes (as measured by the proportion of these students that receive Pell grants) and more than two-and-a-half times as likely to be the first in their family to attend college than other domestic students.
Therefore, we find that other programs—dedicated to promoting racial equity—are necessary to address the broader range of experiences and consequences faced by students of color at a predominantly white institution. Elevating ATI members’ initiatives can represent a critical starting point.