Williams College Joins in New Effort to Expand College Access and Opportunity

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine@williams.edu

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., December 13, 2016—Williams College joined 29 of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities today in announcing a new initiative aimed at substantially expanding access to America’s top-performing undergraduate institutions for talented low-income students.

The American Talent Initiative (ATI), supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions united in this common goal. They are enhancing their own efforts to recruit and support lower-income students, learn from each other, and contribute to research that will help other colleges and universities expand opportunity.

“The relevance of Williams in this century relies fundamentally upon our ability to recruit and nurture a student community that comes from every part of our society,” said President Adam Falk. “Ensuring that Williams is affordable and accessible is, therefore, paramount to the excellence of the education we deliver.”

All ATI institutions have graduation rates of 70 percent or higher, and the hope is to add many more of the 270 institutions in the U.S. that have such a graduation rate, toward a broad goal of attracting, enrolling, and graduating 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students at those 270 colleges and universities by 2025.

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

  • Recruiting students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds through robust outreach;
  • Ensuring that admitted lower-income students enroll and are retained through 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.

ATI institutions will share lessons learned as well as institutional data, annually publishing their progress toward meeting the national enrollment goal. The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, the two not-for-profit organizations coordinating the initiative, will study the practices that lead to measurable progress and disseminate knowledge to the field through regular publications.

Catherine Bond Hill ’76, Ithaka S+R managing director and former president of Vassar College, noted that “this initiative speaks to fairness and equal opportunity for thousands of students who currently can’t claim either, and to the enormous societal benefit that comes from nurturing all of our most talented young people. Recent research suggests that at least 12,500 high school seniors per year have SAT scores in the top 10 percent with 3.7 grade point averages or higher—but do not attend the top 270 colleges. If each of these institutions commits to do its share, an additional 50,000 talented students—12,500 in each grade level—will benefit from the incredible opportunity these colleges and universities offer and that these students have earned.”

Member institutions of the American Talent Initiative (http://www.americantalentinitiative.org) are committing substantial resources to attract, enroll, and graduate students at their individual campuses. This initiative is co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program (www.aspeninstitute.org/college-excellence) and Ithaka S+R (www.sr.ithaka.org) and funded with an initial $1.7 million, multi-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Grant funding will be used for best-practice research and dissemination, convenings of college presidents and staff, and data analysis and reporting.

Participating Institutions
Amherst College Spelman College
Bates College Stanford University
Davidson College University of California, Berkeley
Dartmouth College University of California, Los Angeles
Duke University University of Maryland, College Park
Franklin & Marshall College University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Georgetown University University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Georgia Institute of Technology University of Richmond
Harvard University University of Texas at Austin
Johns Hopkins University University of Washington
Lehigh University Vanderbilt University
The Ohio State University Vassar College
Pomona College Washington University in St. Louis
Princeton University Williams College
Rice University Yale University

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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