UC Davis commits to American Talent Initiative

MORGAN TIEU / AGGIE

Initiative holds shared goal of educating 50,000 more low-income students by 2025

UC Davis has joined the American Talent Initiative (ATI), an effort to educate 50,000 more low-income students at U.S. colleges and universities by 2025. The initiative began in December 2016 with 30 members and now has expanded to 68 members. It is coordinated by two nonprofit organizations, The Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R, with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta, a senior researcher at Ithaka S+R, said that the idea for the initiative began in 2014 and 2015, when Aspen Institute and Bloomberg Philanthropies held discussions to tackle the issue of socioeconomic diversity at the nation’s top colleges. Top colleges are defined as having graduation rates above 70 percent.

“The ATI was formed in response to participant consensus that, in order to increase access and opportunity, colleges and universities needed to come together around a set of shared goals,” Pisacreta said via email. “To achieve those goals, member colleges and universities would need to work collectively to share effective practices so as to amplify successful strategies and to identify and overcome barriers to progress. ATI began initial membership recruiting in 2016, coordinated by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R and supported by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.”

Institutions are eligible to join ATI if they consistently graduate 70 percent or more of their students, according to Tania Nguyen LaViolet, senior program manager and project co-lead of ATI at The Aspen Institute.

“After we launched in December 2016, senior leaders at UC Davis reached out to us about joining the Initiative,” LaViolet said via email. “Not only does UC Davis have an above-sector-average lower-income student enrollment, but in the last five years, UC Davis has had a six-year graduation rate of over 80 percent — well above our eligibility criteria. We’re very excited to have them as partners in this work as we learn about the best practices in increasing access and success from across the membership.”

Institutions will be committing to their own efforts to enroll, support and graduate more students in addition to joining an initiative-wide exercise based on their four focus areas. LaViolet explained the focus areas: recruiting students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds through robust outreach, ensuring that admitted lower-income students enroll and are retained, prioritizing need-based financial aid and minimizing or eliminating gaps in progression and graduation rates between students of different income levels.

“In addition to their individual efforts, institutions are committing to learn from each other, share knowledge through a vibrant practice-sharing community and engage others — students and families, the general public, other institutional leaders — around the issue and importance of increasing opportunity for lower-income students,” LaViolet said.

ATI will be holding institutions accountable to the shared goal of 50,000 graduated students by 2025. The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R will study effective practices that lead to progress and will publish reports and papers with strategies to increase ATI’s success.

“Each year, ATI will collect and pool data from member institutions to measure and publish our collective progress,” LaViolet said. “If there are individual institutions that struggle more than others, ATI will be there to provide assistance in connecting them to the support, research and partnerships that can help them make progress over the long run.”

UC Davis is one of four UC campuses that is part of ATI, along with UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UCLA.

“As one of the national leaders in enrolling and graduating promising students from all socioeconomic backgrounds, we have much to contribute to this shared work,” said Ralph J. Hexter, the interim chancellor at UC Davis, to University News. “There is also much to gain in developing strategies for even more inclusiveness and more equitable outcomes for all student constituencies.”

 

Written by: Jayashri Padmanabhan — campus@theaggie.org