Announced this week, the launch of the American Talent Initiative is a direct assault on the problematic and costly undermatching of high achieving students from lower income backgrounds in American colleges with strong graduation rates and financial aid policies. ATI is a joint project of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute, Ithaka S+R, and 30 distinguished founding colleges and universities. By 2025, it seeks to increase by 50,000 the number of low and moderate-income students enrolling in and graduating from 270 American colleges and universities that have consistent six-year graduation rates of at least 70%, all of which ATI seeks as members. ATI has identified three immediate priorities: raising public awareness about and creating momentum to improve access and success for lower-income students; setting and seeking broad-based endorsement of its “aspirational, measurable goals” focused on recruitment, retention, completion and financial aid; and disseminating the research and knowledge that underlies and supports its goals. While we seek a better understanding of how we might best work with ATI and its member institutions to advance the college opportunities of our students, we are confident that students in every Cristo Rey school should and will be on ATI’s radar screen. I welcome the attention of this terrific collaboration of philanthropists, researchers, thought leaders, educators and innovators actively focused on broadening opportunities for lower income students. Its success will develop and enrich both the students’ individual talents and life trajectories and the excellence and vitality of the higher educational institutions that they attend.
Jane E. Genster