What We Do
The American Talent Initiative (ATI) brings top colleges and universities together with the philanthropy and research communities to expand access and opportunity for talented low- and moderate-income students.
By 2025, ATI aims to attract, enroll, and graduate an additional 50,000 lower-income students at the 341 colleges and universities that consistently graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years. ATI members are a subset of these 341, and include a mix of public and private colleges and universities from all over the country.
What is at stake?
- Highly talented low and moderate-income students are much less likely to graduate with a college degree than their higher-income peers. When qualified high-achieving, lower-income students attend top colleges and universities, their probability of graduating increases significantly, as do potential life earnings and long-term opportunities.
- These students have earned the opportunity to enroll in institutions with the highest graduation rates and best track records for post-graduate success, but for a variety of reasons—a lack of information about their options, confusion about costs, and inadequate financial aid offers—many of them simply lack access.
- Our nation and our economy benefit from cultivating and supporting talented young people from every zip code and income level. Growing disparities in household income make equal opportunity for all talented Americans one of our nation's most important goals, and ATI seeks to be part of the solution.
What do we aim to accomplish?
- The American Talent Initiative was founded with a national goal of educating 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students at the 341 colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates by 2025. In other words, ATI's goal is to increase the total number of lower-income students attending these top-performing colleges from ~550,000 to ~600,000 by 2025 and beyond 2025, to sustain that increase.
- ATI members focus on enhancing and amplifying their own efforts to attract, enroll, and graduate lower-income students with the idea that, together, they can bring about a scale of national change that no single institution can accomplish alone.
- To maximize the initiative’s reach and impact, in the years to come, ATI aims to expand, including as many as possible of the 341 colleges and universities with six-year graduation rates consistently above 70 percent.
How will we accomplish our goals?
The American Talent Initiative will focus on three major areas of activity:
- A sustained national campaign to raise public and private sector awareness about the incredible talent in low- and moderate-income communities and create momentum among higher education leaders to act on improving access and success for lower-income students.
- Setting aspirational, measurable, lower-income student enrollment goals in support of the shared national target of 50,000 additional lower-income students by 2025 and sustaining that increase thereafter. Institutions set these aspirational goals based on their pre-pandemic enrollment and are expected to make progress across measures such as: first-time enrollment, transfer and student veteran enrollment, and retention rates (among others). Members will then establish individualized goals to make that progress, placing a focus on:
- Recruiting students from diverse socioeconomic 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.
- Research and knowledge dissemination facilitated by the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, helping to identify and elevate best practices from across our member institutions, including research papers, issue briefs, and other publications detailing promising strategies for increasing opportunity and success.