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Davidson College Is Founding Member of New Alliance to Expand Access for 50,000 Talented Lower-Income Students

ATI mapDavidson College is among 30 distinguished colleges and universities to join a new initiative announced today aimed at expanding the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America's top-performing undergraduate institutions.

The American Talent Initiative (ATI), supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions who will work together to recruit and support lower-income students and share best practices and research findings.

Davidson and the other founding members of the American Talent Initiative have set a goal to attract, enroll and graduate 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students by 2025. To achieve that ambitious goal, the 30 founding schools hope to enlist more of their peers from the 270 colleges and universities with graduation rates above 70 percent. In North Carolina, Davidson is joined by UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University.

"Talented young people live in every neighborhood and zip code. It serves our national interest to offer these individuals every opportunity to develop to their fullest potential, yet many from less advantaged backgrounds do not believe that college is an option for them," said Davidson College President and ATI Steering Committee member Carol Quillen. "By aggressively seeking out more of these talented young people and supporting them through graduation, ATI partners will immeasurably enrich our campus communities as we enable our country to compete and thrive in an increasingly complex global environment."

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.
Yet, in each graduating high school class, thousands of lower-income young people with outstanding academic credentials do not enroll in an institution where at least 70 percent of students graduate.

The American Talent Initiative seeks to ensure that these "missing" students have a path to attend and thrive at the institutions with the highest-graduation rates and best track records for post-graduate success.

"If we're serious about promoting social mobility in America, we need to ensure that every qualified high school student in the United States has an opportunity to attend college," said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City. "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."

The goals of the American Talent Initiative complement Davidson's longstanding commitment to access and excellence, which has been part of the school's founding mission.

The minutes of an 1841 Board of Trustees meeting state our founders' determination to keep the cost of education "within the reach of many in our land who could not otherwise obtain it." And in 2007, Davidson expanded on that vision by becoming the first liberal arts college to commit to meeting demonstrated financial need with grants and campus employment through The Davidson Trust instead of loans.

That historic decision, in combination with the college's established commitment to need-blind admission, has made it possible for talented students from all backgrounds to imagine coming to Davidson, and for graduates to plan for their futures based on their interests and passions.

Since establishing The Davidson Trust, the college has been able to live up to its promise of affordability. The number of students receiving Pell Grants–frequently the first students in their families to attend college–has more than doubled since 2007.

Meanwhile, programs like the peer mentoring initiative STRIDE (Students Together Reaching for Individual Development and Education), the four-year Bonner Scholars civic leadership program, and participation in programs like the Posse Foundation and Questbridge, have made Davidson a more welcoming home for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. The school's retention and six-year graduation rates have remained virtually unchanged.

"By ensuring access for all students through The Davidson Trust, Davidson keeps faith with its past and secures its future," Quillen said. "We look forward to learning from our ATI partners who share our unwavering commitment to welcoming all talented students as we work toward a shared future based on justice, equality and opportunity."

ATI 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 that knowledge to others in higher education.

Participating Institutions

Amherst College Spelman College
Bates College Stanford University
Davidson College University of California, Berkeley
Dartmouth College University of California, Los Angeles
Duke University University of Maryland, College Park
Franklin & Marshall College University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Georgetown University University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Georgia Institute of Technology University of Richmond
Harvard University University of Texas at Austin
Johns Hopkins University University of Washington
Lehigh University Vanderbilt University
The Ohio State University Vassar College
Pomona College Washington University in St. Louis
Princeton University Williams College
Rice University Yale University

Media Coverage

The New York Times: Make College Diverse
Washington Post: Selective Colleges Pledge to Recruit More Low-Income Students
The News & Observer: UNC, Duke, Davidson Join Pact to Help Low-Income Students

Jay Pfeifer