This past April, Muhlenberg joined the American Talent Initiative (ATI). ATI is a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative that aims to seek out talented youth who cannot afford to attend a higher education institution. The entire Ivy League, as well as other institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Occidental College and Smith College, are also involved with ATI. The schools affiliated with ATI, which are listed on the ATI website, are all high performing and graduate 70 percent of their students within six years. By the year 2025, ATI wants to bring 50,000 high-achieving students with low incomes into these elite schools, according to their website.
There are currently four main ways in which Muhlenberg is planning on seeking out these students. One of these ways is that the College plans to better identify talented students through more in-depth recruitment of qualified high school graduates, as well as transfer students from community colleges.
Additionally, the College also plans to increase the number of Pell Grant-eligible students and the number of first-generation college students.
“Pell Grants are need-based federal grants typically given to families with adjusted gross incomes of less than $60,000 per year,” says Rob Springall, vice president of enrollment and head of the initiative.
Another way that Muhlenberg plans to seek out ATI-eligible students is by prioritizing need-based aid in order to make Muhlenberg an affordable option. Lastly, the College will try to retain and graduate lower-income students at rates that are similar to their higher income peers.
What is unique about Muhlenberg’s involvement with ATI is that there has already been an increase in diverse students over the past few years; therefore, Muhlenberg chose to enter ATI for slightly different reasons than other institutions, as outlined by Springall.
Muhlenberg’s goals for joining ATI revolve around learning from the other schools involved and using the ATI framework to help find students who are ATI applicable.
“There have already been meetings and webinars to learn more and help inform the college’s efforts–large and small–to better support all students,”
These goals mentioned above will help Muhlenberg, “learn from the 99 other member institutions as they find ways to help students from low and moderate-income families succeed and graduate on par with all other members of their class,” explains Springall. “There have already been meetings and webinars to learn more and help inform the College’s efforts — large and small — to better support all students.”
In addition, Muhlenberg will also “use their [ATI] model to build structure around identifying the students who fall under the ATI umbrella, cataloging the activities that Muhlenberg has to support them to successful outcomes and then collect the data over time to make sure what we think might help, is actually helping,” adds Springall.
This partnership with the ATI initiative is already helping to strengthen Muhlenberg’s diversity.
“Muhlenberg was annually enrolling between eight and 10 percent of its first-year students as Pell Grant recipients,” notes Springall. “At eight to 10 percent, Muhlenberg was behind most similar institutions in this measure of economic diversity.”
But this past year, things began to change.
“The Class of 2022 is almost 20 percent Pell Grant recipients. There is no current target for this percentage, but we are now firmly among — and a little ahead in some cases — our peers on this measure,” says Springall. “And we are ahead of many ATI members too. In other words, we are doing a large part of what ATI seeks to do: enroll more low and moderate-income students.”