Working Together to Increase College Access

18 April 2024

Two weeks ago, I traveled to NYC for the annual Presidential Summit of a unique higher education organization: the American Talent Initiative (ATI), a consortium formed in 2016 to promote increased enrollment of low-income students at America’s most successful colleges and universities. Studies have shown that low-income students are much more likely to succeed and graduate at high-performing colleges, yet they are more likely to enroll at institutions with fewer resources and lower retention and graduation rates. ATI tries to address this mismatch by encouraging colleges with strong retention rates to commit to increasing their percentage of Pell-eligible students. 

The ATI Summit is a rare gathering of presidents and chancellors of a wide variety of institutions ranging from Yale, Princeton, Brown, and Johns Hopkins; to Wellesley, Pomona, Williams, and Muhlenberg; and Berkeley, UCLA, UW Madison and Ohio State. The summit features panel presentations from fellow presidents on topics like community-college transfer programs, supporting first-generation students, and the role of standardized testing. I enjoy the chance to talk with presidents of Ivy League universities, land-grant institutions, and state colleges as well as familiar liberal arts college peers. 

In fact, one of the ways in which ATI has been successful, I believe, is in its recognition that putting together a more varied array of institutions can lead to greater mutual growth. The Ivies and other top institutions lend prestige to the effort that can be very helpful to the presidents of less highly-ranked schools. At the same time, schools with fewer resources often bring greater urgency and inventiveness to their efforts. Frankly, I have often learned the most from conversations with presidents of those institutions, many of whom work hard with limited resources to enroll and support large numbers of low-income students. 

A major goal of Carleton 2033: The Liberal Arts in Action, is to increase our percentage of low-income students. We are already engaged in a fundraising drive known as the Carleton Access Initiative that is focused on raising need-based financial aid resources for low-income, Pell-eligible and undocumented students. Our commitment to the American Talent Initiative recognizes that increasing opportunities for lower-income students is not only important to Carleton, it is a critical goal for the country as a whole.

Featured in Carleton Today, April 18, 2024