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Bloomberg Philanthropies Launches New Initiative to Help High-Achieving, Low- and Moderate- Income Students Apply to and Enroll in Top Colleges and Universities

New Initiative Seeks to Expand College Access and Completion for High Achieving, Low- and Moderate-Income Students; Goal is for Half of These Students—Up From One-Third today—to Enroll in the Top 265 Colleges and Universities

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced a new initiative to increase the number of high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students who apply to and graduate from top colleges and universities with strong graduation rates and financial aid policies. Each year, tens of thousands of high achieving students from lower-income backgrounds fail to apply to our country’s leading institutions. This new initiative aims to directly help as many as 65,000 students apply to, enroll in and graduate from these top schools by providing support and guidance on the college and financial aid process. To make this goal possible, the initiative will also engage college and university presidents and leading experts to spur changes in higher education policies and practices in order to enable more of these students to enroll and graduate.

Research shows that over 50 percent of our nation’s high-achieving, low-income students do not apply to a single selective college or university, despite their qualifications. Seventy percent of students at the country’s most competitive colleges come from families with incomes in the top 25 percent. Only six percent of students at top colleges and universities are low-income. These students have limited resources to navigate the complex application process. High schools serving predominately low-income students have, on average, 1,000 students for every college counselor.

When these students apply to top colleges and universities, they are accepted and graduate at the same rates as their wealthier peers. Access to top tier colleges has a lifelong impact. Students who attend these schools have earnings that are about 25 percent higher than those who attend less selective colleges, translating to a difference of $450,000 over the course of a lifetime and increased economic mobility. These high-achieving students represent just a small portion of students who will benefit from additional support and guidance; this initiative will be one step to expand college and career opportunity for low- and moderate-income students across the country.

“Many of America’s brightest students don’t apply to college simply because they lack access to the right information and guidance, particularly students from low- and middle-income families who want to go to competitive colleges but don’t think they can afford it. That limits their opportunities and contradicts what we stand for as a society – and it holds us back as a nation because it prevents so many smart young people from contributing to the best of their abilities,” said Michael R. Bloomberg. “America is the world’s greatest meritocracy but we have much more work to do to make sure that every young person has a chance to achieve their dreams, and a big part of that work is making sure that family income does not prevent talented and qualified students from applying to top colleges.”

“We cannot stand by while remarkable low-income students do not access the opportunities they have earned,” said David Coleman, College Board President and CEO. “Working alongside Bloomberg Philanthropies, we are pleased to be able to say to these students ‘if you work hard, we will help break down barriers to help you succeed’.”

“Top universities and colleges in the US play a central role in developing leaders on whom we all rely to innovate, to govern, and to solve national and international challenges,” said Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson. “These institutions cannot fully succeed in that responsibility if they don’t enroll America’s top talent from all socioeconomic backgrounds to maximize our nation’s potential. The Aspen Institute welcomes the opportunity to work with Bloomberg Philanthropies to tackle this critical issue.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies is investing $10 million over the next two years and additional funds over the following years based on initial results. Other foundations are joining this effort, starting with the New York-based Heckscher Foundation for Children, which is committing advisory support and an additional $1 million over the next two years to support the project.

Together, these investments will support:

  • A squad of well-trained advisors from College Advising Corps, College Possible and Strive for College. These advisors will be matched with high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students, identified primarily by the College Board, as well as by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
    • Advisors will provide credible, personalized guidance on which institutions support and graduate lower-income students at high rates, have strong financial aid policies and are a good match given students’ level of academic achievement.  Advisors will also give information about the real costs of top institutions, which are often far less for lower-income students due to robust scholarships and financial aid opportunities.
    • Advisors will use a broad range of virtual interaction and communication, including video conferencing, screen and document sharing, text and instant messaging, in order to reach students at scale and in rural areas, as well urban centers, across all 50 states. This effort will help complement the important work being done by high school counselors in under-resourced areas.
  • Khan Academy, which is developing free, high-quality online content on the college and financial aid process and making it available to students receiving virtual advising, as well as Khan Academy users more broadly at
  • Professor Ben Castleman of the University of Virginia and Professor Eric Bettinger of Stanford University, who will lead significant research on the impact of this intervention to measure virtual advising outcomes and enable Bloomberg Philanthropies to share successful strategies with school systems, counselors, other non-profit organizations and education leaders across the country.
  • The Aspen Institute which will convene a task force of leading college presidents and experts to develop actionable recommendations for how the 265 colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates and strong financial aid policies can enroll and graduate substantially more of these high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students.
  • America Achieves, which will support the collaboration and develop shared technology tools to strengthen relationships between students and advisors.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2013, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $452 million. For more information on the philanthropy, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.