University joins intercollegiate initiative to boost low-income student enrollment

Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 12:52am

The University of Michigan announced Tuesday in a press release it will join 30 other colleges and universities in the American Talent Initiative, an alliance targeted at increasing the overall enrollment of middle and low-income students in higher education. The initiative aims to attract, enroll and graduate 50,000 lower-income students by 2025.

The alliance, backed by nonprofit foundations like Bloomberg Philanthropies, Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, will grant $1.7 million toward research of best practices and convening college presidents and staff.

University President Mark Schlissel has made increasing socioeconomic diversity a priority as part of his Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategic plan released in October, and said in the University press release released Tuesday he is proud to partner on this “historic” initiative.   

“Our commitment to the American Talent Initiative reflects the mission and values of a 200-year-old public university that is dedicated to developing leaders who will make a positive impact on society,” he said.

The announcement comes following the Board of Regent’s approval of University tuition increases by 3.9 percent for in-state students and 4.4 percent for out-of-state students this summer. Overall, tuition fees and costs have risen by 135 percent in the last 14 years.

The proportion of out-of-state students also increased by 1.9 percent, according to this year’s enrollment report, while in-state enrollment dropped by 254 students. In a September interview, Schlissel maintained the rise in out-of-state admissions still falls in line with the University’s goals of diversity.

“We’ve grown a little bit in the non-Michigan students … to diversify the student body,” he said. “We’re looking at students of all socioeconomic statuses around the country.”

The University has already founded two other recruitment programs with similar objectives in the HAIL scholarship program — which offers four years of tuition to low-income and academically ambitious students from the State of Michigan — and the Wolverine Pathways program — a pipeline program educating middle and high school students in Ypsilanti and Southfield school districts on college preparedness, who receive four years of waived tuition upon completion of the program if also accepted to the University. The HAIL scholarship program’s cohort enrolled 262 freshmen this year.

The University press release outlines strategies for colleges participating in the American Talent Initiative such as prioritizing need-based financial aid, recruiting students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and focusing on retention programs.

“Alliance member schools 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 release reads.