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UD President Joins National Committee to Expand College Access

University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina has joined the national steering committee of the American Talent Initiative, a growing alliance of colleges and universities dedicated to substantially expanding opportunity and access for low- and moderate-income students.

More than 100 public and private institutions have committed to work together through ATI on a shared goal of educating an additional 50,000 high-achieving, lower-income students across the country by 2025.

“This work is of the utmost importance,” Spina said. “A student’s zip code, income or race should not affect their chances of attending a top college. But in reality, those things often do. We can change that, and ATI members are already making progress by prioritizing need-based financial help, helping ensure students are included and engaged on campus, and minimizing or eliminating retention and graduation rate gaps between lower-income and high-income families.

“I’ve worked in higher education for 30 years and I’ve never seen this level of commitment from such a wide variety of institutions on a single issue. I am honored to take a larger part as a steering committee member in continuing the momentum ATI members have achieved.”

ATI is supported by an initial $1.7 million, multi-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, and co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R.

The effort is led by a nine-member steering committee, which includes University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce; The Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake; Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt; Davidson College President Carol Quillen; Ithaka S+R Educational Transformation Program Director Martin Kurzweil; The Aspen Institute President and CEO Daniel R. Porterfield; and The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Vice President and Executive Director Joshua Wyner.

“President Spina has set ambitious goals to increase enrollment of lower-income students — and led his own university’s efforts to join the American Talent Initiative,” said Michael Drake, president of The Ohio State University. “Just as important, President Spina advocates for colleges and universities across the country to work collectively to invest in talented students no matter their zip codes or backgrounds. We look forward to his leadership with ATI.”

ATI members are institutions with six-year graduation rates of at least 70 percent. Research shows when high-achieving, lower-income students attend such high-performing institutions, they graduate at higher rates, and have a greater chance of attaining leadership positions and other opportunities throughout their lives.

Yet each year, there are at least 12,500 lower-income students graduating from high school  with outstanding academic credentials who do not enroll at institutions where they have the greatest likelihood of success.

The University of Dayton, which joined ATI in 2017, has pledged to increase enrollment of Pell Grant-eligible students to 20 percent from 14 percent by fall 2023 through increased recruitment events, expanded scholarship programs, and a new transfer pathway from community college. The University also is one of 33 ATI members to commit to enroll and graduate more U.S. military veterans.

More information about ATI is available online.


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