UW News

December 7, 2017

UW announces ambitious public commitment to educate more high-achieving low-income students

UW is among the first schools to announce public commitments through the American Talent Initiative, an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies

The University of Washington on Thursday announced ambitious new plans with goals aimed at supporting these students socially, academically, and financially, from before they arrive on campus to graduation and beyond. The UW is a member of the American Talent Initiative (ATI), a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative led by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, which has grown from 30 to 86 top colleges and universities since it launched in December 2016. Each institution is working toward the overall ATI goal of enrolling 50,000 additional talented, low- and moderate-income students at colleges and universities with strong graduation rates.

In addition to the UW, five other institutions including, Yale University, Wake Forest University, the University of Texas at Austin, Georgia Institute of Technology and Elizabethtown College released specific action plans aimed at supporting these students socially, academically, and financially, from before they arrive on campus to graduation and beyond. Over 85 percent of institutions that joined ATI earlier this year have drafted plans, while members that joined more recently are on-track to propose their plans in the coming months.

“America is the world’s greatest meritocracy, but too often a parent’s income still determines a child’s likelihood of attending a great college,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City. “The American Talent Initiative is aimed at fixing that, and the program’s momentum is building: More top schools are committing to enrolling more talented students from lower-income families and drawing up concrete action plans to make that happen. Their leadership sets a great example for others.”

As part of a national effort to increase opportunity for an additional 50,000 talented, low- and moderate-income students at top-performing colleges and universities by 2025, the UW aims to graduate an additional 125 low- to low-middle-income students per cohort by 2025.

“The University of Washington provides students from all backgrounds with an education that will prepare them for successful lives, and our work with the ATI demonstrates values we hold dear,” said Rickey Hall, the UW’s vice president for minority affairs and diversity. “Our aim is to maintain the access low- and low-middle-income students have to the UW, but more importantly to provide them the tools and support they need to be successful and graduate.”

Yale University has committed to enrolling 225 more students who receive Pell grants, in addition to 150 more first-generation college students. Wake Forest will increase the share of Pell recipients enrolled by more than 40 percent and increase the share of students who receive need-based aid by 25 percent. The University of Texas at Austin is aiming for a four-year graduation rate of 70 percent by building on its recent efforts to boost student success on campus. These efforts have already resulted in an increase in the four-year graduation rate from 52 percent to 66 percent with the greatest progress among Pell-eligible, first-generation and under-represented students.

Wake Forest University Yale University
·    Increase applications from Pell-eligible students by 50%

·    Increase the share of Pell recipients enrolled by > 40%

·    Increase the share of student who receive need-based aid by 25%.

·    Increase the mean graduation rate for Pell recipients by 12.5%

·    Increase the number of first-generation students enrolled by 150

·    Increase the number of Pell recipients enrolled by 225

University of Texas at Austin University of Washington
·    Increase the four-year graduation rate to 70% from 52% in five years. ·    Graduate an additional 125 low-and low-middle-income students per cohort by 2025
Elizabethtown College Georgia Institute of Technology
·    Increase the number of transfer students by 400% from 25 in 2017 to 100 annually by 2021 ·    Increase the amount of need-based aid distributed by 30%


These six institutions aim to improve socioeconomic diversity through a number of strategies expected to drive enrollment among high-achieving, lower income students, including:

  • Identifying talented students through better recruitment of qualified high school graduates and high-achieving transfer students from community colleges and other schools
  • Reaching out directly to the neediest families nationwide to increase the number of Pell-eligible students enrolled, the number of applications from Pell-eligible students, and the number of first-generation students enrolled
  • Removing cost as a barrier to access by increasing need-based aid to make attendance more affordable
  • Retaining and graduating lower-income students at rates comparable to their higher-income peers

ATI, which has grown its membership from 30 to 86 colleges and universities in under a year, works with institutions across the country that graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years. At this time, approximately 290 colleges and universities nationwide achieve that graduation rate, and the initiative is working to increase the total number of low- and moderate-income students enrolled at these approximately 290 institutions from about 480,000 to 530,000 by 2025. It is a companion effort to the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ CollegePoint initiative.

Together, ATI and CollegePoint are working to address a persistent problem in college access and completion: each year, for a variety of reasons—including lack of information about their options, confusion about costs, and inadequate financial aid offers—tens of thousands of hard-working students with high grades and standardized test scores fail to enroll in our country’s leading institutions. CollegePoint provides guidance to students to help them navigate the college admissions process and connect with the institutions where they are most likely to succeed. At the same time, ATI works across institutions to ensure that campuses can enroll and support lower-income students through to graduation.

As part of its commitment, each member institution works with ATI to develop action plans to recruit more students from economically diverse backgrounds, ensure that admitted lower-income students enroll and engage in campus life, prioritize need-based financial aid, and minimize gaps in progression and graduation rates between students of differing socio-economic backgrounds.