CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has joined the American Talent Initiative, a coalition of top universities committed to enhancing the recruitment, enrollment and graduation of high-achieving lower- and moderate-income students.
“Our goal is to ensure that a University of Illinois education is affordable and accessible to any Illinois resident who earns admission, regardless of their ability to pay,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “This partnership with the American Talent Initiative will help us keep even more of our state’s high-performing students here for college, and substantially increase the chances of them staying in Illinois for their careers. This is how we believe we should be delivering on our land-grant university responsibilities in the 21st century.”
A Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that launched in December 2016 with 30 institutions, ATI’s membership recently topped 100 institutions, including Illinois. Members are committed to the collective goal of enrolling 50,000 additional talented low- and moderate-income students at colleges and universities with strong graduation rates by 2025. About 480,000 such students are enrolled in top schools now.
“In the 2017-18 academic year, the University of Illinois contributed more than $80 million in financial support for low- and moderate-income students,” said Andreas Cangellaris, the vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at Illlinois. “Access is only valuable if it is associated with success, and our retention and graduation rates are among the highest in the Big Ten. We continue to strive to do better, and as we grow financial resources for student support through this initiative, we will also continue to improve our academic support services.”
ATI member institutions must meet the standard of graduating at least 70 percent of their students in six years. Membership in ATI now includes the entire Ivy League, private colleges and 17 state flagship universities.
“Family income shouldn’t determine a child's chances of attending a top college – but too often, it does,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and a three-term mayor of New York City. “That's why we created the American Talent Initiative, and colleges have responded enthusiastically. They recognize that it benefits them as much as it does the students, and the more schools that join, the more it will benefit our country.”
ATI member institutions are implementing several strategies designed to attract, enroll and graduate 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;
- Increasing the number of applications from Pell Grant-eligible students, the number of Pell-eligible students enrolled and the number of first-generation students enrolled;
- Prioritizing need-based aid to make attendance more affordable;
- Retaining and graduating lower-income students at rates comparable to their higher-income peers.
Approximately 290 colleges and universities nationwide achieve a graduation rate of 70 percent of their students in six years. In addition to committing resources to increase opportunities for lower-income students, ATI member institutions are collecting institutional data that will be published annually to assess their aggregate progress toward meeting the 50,000-by-2025 national goal.