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Growing the American Talent Initiative
Increasing Access and Opportunity for Lower-Income Students

In December 2016, Ithaka S+R, in collaboration with the Aspen Institute and with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, launched the American Talent Initiative (ATI), a venture aimed at substantially expanding the number of talented low- and moderate-income students enrolling in and graduating from the colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates. Since its launch, ATI’s mission to increase access and opportunity has resonated with college leaders around the country, and in a few short months, we’ve rapidly expanded ATI membership from 30 to 68 colleges and universities (see full membership list below). As did our founding members, each new member…


Joining Together to Expand Access and Opportunity
Introducing the American Talent Initiative

Thirty of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities today announced a new venture to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates. Coordinated by Ithaka S+R and the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and supported by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the American Talent Initiative (ATI) brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions to ensure that talented young people from every zip code and income level have the opportunity to enroll in institutions with the highest graduation rates and best track records for post-graduate success.…


Prepare to Travel: Across the U.S. Access to High-Completion-Rate Colleges Uneven

The American Council on Education (ACE) recently published a report on “education deserts” that identified the geographical areas in the United States where there is limited access to higher education institutions. Across the country, the authors identify 295 education deserts, areas where there are either zero colleges and universities or one community college that serves as the only “broad-access” public option. Students in the Midwest and Great Plains states face more deserts than students in other regions. The authors argue that living in an education desert puts students at a disadvantage compared to their peers who live in areas with…


Moving Beyond “Fit”: Industry Engagement in Competency-Based Education Design

Competency-based education (CBE) is an approach to higher education that is based on students mastering specific skills that are aligned to certain competencies. These competencies can be aligned to objective measures of student preparedness or aligned to labor market needs and defined in collaboration with employers. Rather than measuring students’ progress in terms of course completion and “seat time,” a competency-based system measures students’ progress in terms of tangible skills and allows students to progress at their own pace. From a labor market perspective, the success of CBE at scale seems to depend in large part on two factors: employers’…


Creating Opportunity in the Tech Industry Pipeline

The lack of diversity in the tech industry has been well documented by the media. Some of the roots of this problem lie in the companies themselves: there’s broad consensus (see here, here, and here) that tech company culture, and perhaps unconscious bias towards underrepresented groups, contribute to low numbers of women, black, and Hispanic employees hired and retained in tech. Some see the lack of diversity as a “pipeline” problem, arguing that the K-12 and post-secondary education system produces too few women and black and Hispanic students with the requisite computer science skills needed to compete for industry jobs.…