Alliance helps low-income families access higher education

April 25, 2017

Saint Michael’s College has been invited to join the 30 founding members from the nation’s most respected colleges and universities in 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.

The 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.

“It is an honor to be invited to this important and ambitious initiative working alongside some of the best institutions in the country,” said Saint Michael’s College President John J. Neuhauser. “Saint Michael’s College has a long history of supporting low income students in their college experiences and beyond.  Our Edmundite Catholic heritage compels us to do more for those who have the least in our world.  It is gratifying to have our good work recognized, and inspiring to know that now as part of this alliance we can work together and do even more.”

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, about 430,000 lower-income students are 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.

The only institution from Vermont in the ATI, Saint Michael’s College recognizes that America’s top-performing colleges have an important role to play in this effort. Research shows that when high-achieving, lower-income students attend these institutions, they graduate at higher rates, and access to those institutions provides them with a much greater chance of attaining leadership positions and opportunity throughout their lives. “It is perplexing to me that in a universe of approximately 3,500 colleges and universities in the United States, only 270 consistently achieve graduation rates of over 70 percent” said Sarah Kelly, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Saint Michael’s College and the individual tapped to lead campus ATI efforts.  “I am excited to work with colleagues to set goals for the program; to challenge the campus to do more to insure the success of highly talented, low-income students and to work with ATI members in a collaborative fashion to identify what is working and where we can improve,” Kelly added.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City, said, “If we’re serious about promoting social mobility in America, we need to ensure that every qualified high school student in the US 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.” He said Colleges and universities participating in the American Talent Initiative will 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.

A list of member institutions of the American Talent Initiative can be found at ( This initiative is co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program ( and Ithaka S+R ( and funded with an initial $1.7 million, multi-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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