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UMD is a Founding Member of New Alliance to Expand Access and Opportunity for 50,000 Talented Students from Lower-Income Families

December 13, 2016

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

American Talent Initiative brings together 30 of nation’s most respected colleges and universities, launches national effort to attract, enroll and graduate more high-achieving, lower-income students

COLLEGE PARK, Md. --  The University of Maryland is one of 30 of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities that have joined forces today on a new initiative to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s top-performing undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates.

ATI MapThe American Talent Initiative (ATI), supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions united in this common goal. They 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.

"As a land-grant flagship at a time when many people feel left behind, our mission of social mobility and educational opportunity is more critical than ever,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Our vigorous efforts to recruit the most talented, highest achievers, regardless of socioeconomic background, will contribute to this collaboration. Participating is an honor, a challenge, and a duty.”

Aiming to welcome more of the 270 institutions with graduation rates of 70 percent or higher over the next few years, the members of the American Talent Initiative have set a goal to attract, enroll, and graduate 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students at those 270 colleges and universities by 2025. Based on the most recent federal data available, there are around 430,000 lower-income students enrolled at these 270 institutions. In other words, ATI’s goal is to increase and sustain the total number of lower-income students attending these top-performing colleges to 480,000 by 2025.

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

Colleges and universities participating in the American Talent Initiative aim to 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.

Members 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.

Catharine Bond Hill, Ithaka S+R managing director and former Vassar president, noted 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.”

Member institutions of the American Talent Initiative are committing substantial resources to attract, enroll, and graduate students at their individual campuses. This initiative is co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program (www.aspeninstitute.org/college-excellence) and Ithaka S+R (www.sr.ithaka.org) 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.

To learn more about the American Talent Initiative, including a list of the participating institutions, visit http://www.americantalentinitiative.org.