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New report shows Ohio State helping to lead national initiative aimed at expanding opportunities for students

American Talent Initiative committed to enrolling an additional 50,000 low- and moderate-income students across the U.S.

A new report released today shows The Ohio State University is among the top contributors to a nationwide effort aimed at enrolling 50,000 more low- and moderate-income students at top colleges and universities by 2025.

The American Talent Initiative’s most recent impact report shows that between 2015-16 and 2017-18, institutions with graduation rates of 70% or higher, including Ohio State, added 20,696 students who qualify for Pell grants. While the initiative measures the collective progress of all high-graduation-rate institutions, those colleges and universities that have joined the initiative as members have contributed disproportionately to this increase.

Ohio State is a founding member of the American Talent Initiative, which launched in 2016.

“We know that while talent is distributed equally across backgrounds and ZIP codes, opportunity is not,” said President Michael V. Drake. “It is vital for all of us in higher education to continue to work together to increase access to an affordable, excellent education.”

The report notes that Ohio State increased its Pell enrollment by 386 students since 2015-16, largely through strategic finance and fundraising for need-based aid. Drake announced in his State of the University Address that Ohio State has committed $200 million in additional need-based aid for students and families since 2015 — twice the goal set five years ago.

Some of the programs helping to advance access, affordability and excellence include:

  • The Buckeye Opportunity Program, which covers the full cost of tuition and fees for Pell-eligible students from Ohio.
  • The President’s Affordability Grant program, which benefits about 15,000 low- and moderate-income students annually.
  • Land Grant Opportunity Scholarships, which have been expanded to cover the total cost of attendance for up to 176 Ohio students annually.
  • The Ohio State Tuition Guarantee, which freezes in-state tuition, mandatory fees, room and board for four years.

The American Talent Initiative is in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Aspen Institute and Ithaka S+R. It has grown from 30 founding member institutions in 2016 to 128 at the end of 2019. Member colleges and universities represent schools of all sizes, missions and locations across the U.S.

According to the report, data for the 2018-19 school year are not yet publicly available for all high-graduation-rate colleges and universities, and data collected from member institutions indicate that continued progress toward the goal is not guaranteed. While the majority of member schools increased Pell enrollment between 2017-18 and 2018-19, others saw declines. Overall, Pell enrollment at member schools stayed virtually the same over the last year.

Initiative leaders are optimistic that members will intensify their commitment. “We believe the results over the first three years of the initiative provide evidence that the initiative is having its intended effect,” the report states. “They also show that we need to keep our foot on the gas.”

Additionally, the report noted that institutions sustaining or making the most progress have taken a comprehensive approach: having a visible, concrete commitment to this mission and strategy among senior leaders and trustees; expanding beyond traditional pipelines of incoming students; prioritizing need-based financial aid; and making sure lower-income students have what they need to thrive on campus in an inclusive environment.

According to the report: “Ohio State has also set goals to increase enrollment and retention of students just above the Pell-eligibility threshold, and is exploring strategies on how to achieve these goals. The President’s Affordability Grant program provides differentiated levels of grant support for students, depending on whether they are low-income or middle-income.”

More information on Ohio State programs and initiatives is available here.

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