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New Research from the American Talent Initiative on Community College Transfer to Top Colleges and Universities

The American Talent Initiative (ATI) just released new research suggesting that, each year, 50,000 high-achieving, low- and moderate-income community college students do not transfer to any four-year institution. Approximately 15,000 of these lower-income students have the academic credentials to be successful at even the most selective colleges and universities, having earned a 3.7 GPA or higher at their community college. ATI’s research demonstrates that enrolling more lower-income freshman is not the only viable strategy for increasing socioeconomic diversity on campus. For many top colleges and universities, recruiting and enrolling more community college transfers opens up new pipelines of talented students and at the same time, expands opportunity for students historically underrepresented in these institutions.

The American Talent Initiative – a collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program, and Ithaka S+R – is an alliance of top four-year colleges and universities committed to attracting, enrolling and graduating an additional 50,000 talented, low- and moderate-income students at the 290 colleges and universities with the strongest graduation rates by 2025. Launched with 30 members in December 2016, ATI now has 100 members, including the entire Ivy League, every school in the University of California system, leading national liberal arts colleges, and public and private research universities.

The 290 colleges and universities eligible for ATI participation enroll far fewer transfer students, on average, than all other four-year institutions, both public and private. Yet, some ATI members have long-standing, ambitious commitments to serving community college transfer students. In the practical guide accompanying the research, ATI highlights 13 such institutions, with a particular focus on Smith College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the University of California – Los Angeles. The approaches of these transfer leaders provide concrete examples of the leadership, infrastructure, and finances required to enroll and support community college transfer students. If each ATI-eligible institution followed their lead and expanded community college transfer enrollment by 20 students, ATI would be nearly a quarter of the way towards its 50,000-by-2025 goal.

As an extension of this research, ATI is hosting a transfer convening in late July to bring together experts from ATI member institutions and prospective community college partners to begin a conversation around strengthening the community college transfer pipelines to ATI institutions. We look forward to sharing the key takeaways of this meeting.

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