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College and Universities Agree to Expand Access and Opportunity for Talented, Lower-Income Students with American Talent Initiative Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies

Schools commit to attracting, enrolling, and graduating 50,000 more high-achieving, lower-income students by 2025

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced today that 30 of the nation’s colleges and universities will join the American Talent Initiative, a program supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies to expand access to college for the country’s high-achieving, low- and middle-income students. The American Talent Initiative will increase the number of low- and moderate-income students enrolled at the schools with the highest graduation rates by 50,000 in 2025. The initiative is managed by the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R.

Together, these colleges will take actionable steps to expand access and opportunity for highly-talented lower-income students, including prioritizing need-based financial aid, engaging in robust outreach to low- and moderate-income students, and ensuring that admitted lower-income students enroll and graduate. The American Talent Initiative will expand the invitation to other colleges to meet a goal of 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students reaching the 270 schools with the highest graduation rates by 2025.  It is a companion effort to the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ CollegePoint initiative.

The American Talent Initiative and CollegePoint will work to address a persistent problem in college access and completion: each year, tens of thousands of hard-working students with high grades and standardized test scores fail to apply to our country’s leading institutions. The American Talent Initiative and CollegePoint provide guidance to students, improve the college admissions process, and increase access to education – which has always functioned as a driver of social mobility.

Participating colleges and universities in the American Talent Initiative include public universities like UC-Berkeley and Ohio State, private institutions like Princeton, Harvard and Johns Hopkins, and small private schools like Williams, Amherst, and Pomona. Making an explicit link between attending top colleges and accessing expanded postgraduate opportunities, the presidents of these 30 institutions will urge their fellow leaders to join with them to dramatically increase both socioeconomic and ethnic diversity at American colleges and universities.

“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,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term Mayor of New York City.

Access to education and economic mobility are under strain in America. Only one in four students on America’s campuses come from families on the bottom half of the income ladder. America can’t succeed without top talent from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Limited access to higher education prevents many smart young people from contributing to the best of their abilities.

“We’re calling it the American Talent Initiative because it’s all about elevating and supporting remarkable talent,” said Dan Porterfield, the president of Franklin & Marshall College and a member of the Initiative’s Steering Committee. “We’re investing in the success of low-income students and we know it will pay dividends. It is in the best interests of all the students in our colleges and our communities for us to work together to achieve the American Talent Initiative goals.”

To make this goal possible, the American Talent Initiative engages 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. The American Talent Initiative works with colleges and universities to enroll, finance, and graduate high-achieving students including (but not at all limited to) those that Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped apply for admission through CollegePoint.

In its two years of operation, CollegePoint has helped thousands of high-achieving, low-to-moderate income students across the US find and pursue a path to the nation’s colleges. CollegePoint uses virtual advising to guide participants through the admissions process, from identifying best-fit schools and completing applications to researching financial aid. The program hopes to increase the number of low- and moderate-income students enrolling at colleges each year from one-third of the incoming student body to over half by 2020, and plans to reach at least 100,000 students. This fall alone, CollegePoint has provided 12,000 participants with high-quality college and financial advising.

Having tens of thousands of lower-income, high-achieving students apply to colleges will mean little if only a handful of institutions are equipped to enroll, fund, and graduate them in the first place. That’s why the American Talent Initiative’s focus on colleges is such a critical element. Through the American Talent Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute are helping to make sure these top colleges strengthen how they recruit and support these students so that they can actually enroll and graduate.

Colleges and universities participating in the American Talent Initiative will further the national goal of developing more talent from every American neighborhood by:

  • Engaging in robust outreach to lower-income students, and ensuring that admitted lower-income students enroll and are retained through “best 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 promising and proven strategies 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 managing the initiative, will study the practices that lead to measureable progress and disseminate knowledge to the field through regular publications and convenings.

For more information about the American Talent Initiative click here,

About Bloomberg Philanthropies:
Bloomberg Philanthropies works in more than 120 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2015, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed over half a billion dollars.  For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagram, Snapchat, and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

Media Contact:
Bloomberg Philanthropies, Rebecca Carriero, (212) 205-0182,