ATI’s goal is to substantially increase the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s undergraduate institutions with the highest overall graduation rates. Together, the members of the ATI have vowed to enroll and graduate 50,000 more low- and moderate-income students by 2025. The 2018 ATI Impact Report offers the first look at the progress achieved during the initiative’s first two years.
Over two years, they have already increased their enrollment of students eligible for federal Pell grants by nearly 7,300—and that number is set to grow in the years ahead. UCI has made the single largest contribution to ATI’s 50,000-by-2025 goal to date, adding 2,323 Pell students from 2012-13 to 2017-18, with nearly 900 Pell students added in the last two years.
Nearly half of these students enrolled as transfer students. The transfer cohort grew from 1,665 students in fall 2012 to 2,919 students in fall 2017, an increase of 75 percent. In fall 2017, 48 percent of incoming transfer students received Pell.
“Higher education institutions have an obligation to reach out to overlooked communities and create a pipeline for them to attend,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman.
“We are honored to be recognized as the top contributor to the ATI nationwide enrollment goal for our work with transfer students,” said Michael Dennin, vice provost for the Office of Teaching and Learning and dean of UCI’s Division of Undergraduate Education. “At UCI, student success is our top priority; and it is nice to see the data proving the impact of our efforts.”
One such effort is UCI’s Summer Scholars Transfer Institute, created in 1993, which invites 120 community college students per year to live and study on campus for 10 days, at no cost. The immersion experience aims to give potential transfer students “a sense that they do belong here, that a four-year university is reachable,” says Santana Ruiz, deputy director of UCI’s Center for Educational Partnerships.
The need for such programs is clear. According to the ATI Impact Report, each year, tens of thousands of lower-income high school and community college students never apply to a high-graduation-rate institution despite their strong academic credentials. When high-achieving, lower-income students do attend these institutions, they have a greater chance of graduating and moving to the middle class and beyond than they otherwise would.
Americans with bachelor’s degrees earn, on average, 66 percent more than those who only have high school diplomas, and $1 million more over the course of their careers. The benefits to society are evident too: college graduates vitally contribute to the economy, serve their communities, and create jobs and opportunities for the students of tomorrow.
Yet there is a wide chasm in our country between who gets a bachelor’s degree and who does not. More than three-quarters of bachelor’s degrees are granted to young adults from the top half of the income distribution. This disparity is compounded when many of our nation’s low- and moderate-income students never get the opportunity to attend the colleges and universities where they have the best chance to succeed. More than half of students at the colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates—those where at least 70 percent of entering students graduate—come from families in the top 20 percent of the national income distribution.
Nationwide, statistics show that just 49 percent of Pell grant recipients earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. At UCI, in contrast, the graduation rate is a remarkable 85 percent. UCI also leads the country’s top schools in percentage of students who are Pell grant recipients (who typically hail from low-income families) with 37 percent, putting UCI near the top of all high-graduation-rate public institutions. That means UCI welcomes more Pell grant students than the entire Ivy League combined.
The impact report from ATI adds to an impressive list of accolades that UCI has been recognized for in their commitment to the UCI strategic pillar of being first-in-class for upward economic mobility of underserved student populations.
While continued progress is not guaranteed, the benefits of persisting are quite clear. By striving to reach the ATI goal, UCI and other member schools can “not only educate an increasing share of 50,000 untapped, incredibly talented lower-income students, but can prove that progress is achievable and sustainable in the decades that follow 2025, “the ATI Impact Report concludes. “We look forward to working together towards this common goal: contributing to America’s future as a diverse and prosperous nation where talent rises through higher education.”