Penn State joins initiative to educate more low- and moderate-income students

Penn State will join 100 other institutions in setting goals to be more accessible and help students graduate on time. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State announced April 18 that it has joined the American Talent Initiative, partnering with top-performing institutions to commit to the collective goal of enrolling 50,000 additional talented, low- and moderate-income students at colleges and universities with strong graduation rates by 2025.  

ATI is a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative and led by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and education research organization Ithaka S+R. Alongside these partners, Penn State will develop strategies to attract, enroll and support more high-achieving, lower- and moderate-income students from before they arrive on campus to graduation and beyond.

ATI was launched in December 2016 with 30 institutions. Member institutions must meet the standard of graduating at least 70 percent of their students in six years. Membership in ATI now includes the entire Ivy League, 17 state flagship universities, and private colleges.

Penn State President Eric Barron recently discussed the University’s position in relation to shifting demographics and the challenging financial climate, as well as its commitment to providing upward mobility for Pennsylvania’s residents.

Part of that work is done through programs such as the Pathway to Success: Summer Start program, a work-study scholarship program aimed at increasing student retention; and the Student Transition Experiences Program that aids students in their transition to University Park from a Commonwealth Campus by helping them to acclimate and stay on schedule for graduation. Both are programs supported by The Open Doors Scholarship Program, as are Complete Penn State, Smart Track and RaiseMe initiatives that provide assistance to students from pre-college to degree completion.

“Penn State is committed to opening our doors to students from all socio-economic backgrounds, and ensuring that they will succeed once they begin their studies,” said Barron. “Joining the American Talent Initiative is the latest step we’ve taken to promote access and affordability, and we look forward to being part of this national effort.”

“Family income shouldn’t determine a child's chances of attending a top college — but too often, it does,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and three-term mayor of New York City. “That's why we created the American Talent Initiative, and colleges have responded enthusiastically. They recognize that it benefits them as much as it does the students, and the more schools that join, the more it will benefit our country.”

As part of the national effort to increase opportunity for talented, low- and moderate-income students at top-performing colleges and universities, all member institutions are implementing several strategies designed to attract, enroll and graduate high-achieving, lower-income students, including:

  • Identifying talented students through better recruitment of qualified high school graduates and high-achieving transfer students from community colleges and other schools;
  • Increasing the number of applications from Pell-eligible students, the number of Pell-eligible students who are enrolled, and the number of first-generation students enrolled;
  • Prioritizing need-based aid to make attendance more affordable; and
  • Retaining and graduating lower-income students at rates comparable to their higher-income peers.

At this time, approximately 290 colleges and universities nationwide achieve a graduation rate of 70 percent of their students in six years. The initiative aims to increase the total number of low- and moderate-income students enrolled at these institutions by 50,000 — from about 480,000 to 530,000 students — by 2025. Member institutions of the American Talent Initiative commit substantial resources to increase opportunity for lower-income students, as well as collect institutional data which will be annually published to assess their aggregate progress toward meeting the 50,000-by-2025 national goal.

“With its multi-campus structure and online educational offerings, Penn State is uniquely positioned to address the challenges facing low- and moderate-income students statewide,” said Rob Pangborn, vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education, who is spearheading the initiative for the University. “We look forward to expanding our commitment to students’ access, affordability and success.”

Undergraduate Education is the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

Last Updated April 18, 2018