Why 86 colleges signed a pledge to graduate more low-income students

About 90% of low-income, first-gen students don't graduate on time.

And within the past two years, dozens of colleges and universities have joined a group called the American Talent Initiative that is seeking to solve this problem, Nick Anderson reports for the Washington Post.

The initiative aims to collectively enroll 50,000 more low-income, high-achieving students into roughly 300 institutions with high graduation rates by 2025.

The initiative launched in late 2016 with 30 member schools, but has now received pledges from 86 colleges and universities. The group spans a variety of public and private institutions, including the entire Ivy League, the University of Virginia, several University of California campuses, Rice University, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Spelman College.

Fly in four: How one university supports on-time graduation for low-income students

To join the initiative, schools must set goals toward expanding access, track their progress, and report their progress to the initiative. The initiative will also track changes to the number of Pell-eligible students enrolled at its target institutions.

The initiative has support from Michael Bloomberg, who says elite colleges should do more to expand access for low-income students. "I'm a believer that society needs more of the best and the brightest to get a good education," he told the Post. The initiative also partners with nonprofits the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R.

One member, Princeton University, has taken several steps over the past decade to recruit and retain more low-income students. As a result, the university has tripled its number of Pell-eligible freshmen in that time, up to 22%. Other members told the Post they've set goals to increase low-income student enrollment by up to 40% (Anderson, Washington Post, 12/23).  

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