03:12 AM

Ohio State among nation’s top universities expanding college access for lower-income students

The Ohio State University is a founding member of a national initiative to increase the number of talented low- and moderate-income students on college campuses.

The American Talent Initiative, a collaborative of 30 founding colleges and universities, seeks to increase the number of low-income students at up to 270 of America’s top-performing institutions by 50,000 by 2025.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide initial funding to the American Talent Initiative, a growing alliance of Ivy League, public research, private and liberal arts colleges and universities whose founding members range from the universities of California-Berkeley and Michigan to Harvard and Yale to Franklin & Marshall and Bates colleges.

Each founding institution has agreed to a renewed focus on enrolling, supporting and graduating additional low- and moderate-income students. Importantly, the institutions have also committed to sharing what they learn about making progress toward their goals with one another and with the broader higher education community and public.

Over the next decade, the American Talent Initiative plans to expand to a total of up to 270 schools that consistently graduate at least 70 percent of their students in six years or fewer. To reach the goal of 50,000 additional low- and moderate-income students among those colleges by 2025, the American Talent Initiative hopes to recruit 10,000 by 2020 and 25,000 by 2022.

Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, an American Talent Initiative Steering Committee member, says the initiative will give thousands of students who believe higher education is beyond their reach the chance to attend the “college of their dreams.”

“At its core, our initiative seeks to expand opportunity for talented students from lower- and moderate-income backgrounds,” Drake said. “Working together, our colleges and universities will share new ways to advance the success of many more students and help all of our colleagues perform better. The entire nation benefits as we increase graduation rates and shorten time to degree.”

To meet its goal, the American Talent Initiative is asking institutions to make measurable improvements in four areas:

  • Engage in robust outreach to low- and moderate-income students.
  • Ensure that admitted low- and moderate-income students enroll, feel included and engaged in the campus community, and are retained.
  • Prioritize need-based financial aid.
  • Minimize or eliminate gaps in progression and graduation rates between students from low-, moderate- and high-income families.

For its part in the American Talent Initiative, Ohio State has set goals to:

  • Increase applications by 15 percent by 2025.
  • Increase enrollment of low- and moderate-income students and reach 93 percent in first-year retention by 2025.
  • Increase need-based aid for low- and moderate-income students by $100 million over five years.
  • Reduce the gap in graduation rates of low- and moderate-income students.

Initiatives to recruit, retain and graduate students are in place on the Columbus campus, as well as regional campuses in Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark and Wooster.

Many resources for accomplishing these goals are already in place at Ohio State. For example, applications are evaluated comprehensively by readers who have been trained in an implicit bias workshop.

In addition, the university has numerous programs that partner with high schools to recruit and assist high-achieving low-income, first-generation, rural or underrepresented minority students in completing applications for admission. The newest such program, the Buckeye Student Leadership Academy, will be piloted this summer. Through a competitive application process, 125 Ohio high-school juniors from underrepresented populations will be selected for intensive Columbus campus workshops to help them apply for and navigate college and identify their leadership strengths.

Community college partnerships, including a pathway program with Columbus State Community College, help recruit transfer students. And college awareness program partnerships with organizations such as I Know I Can promote the benefits of college to middle- and high-school students and their families.

Drake’s 2020 Vision for The Ohio State University is focused on access, affordability and inclusive excellence, and includes the President’s Affordability Grant program, a commitment to increase need-based financial aid by $100 million over five years. To date, the program has provided $35 million in need-based financial aid with funds generated through administrative efficiencies and innovative financing strategies.

Ohio State also offers grants for underrepresented out-of-state students to attend goBuckeye Day, the final push to encourage accepted students to commit to attending the university. Full-tuition Land Grant Scholarships are awarded to at least one student from each of Ohio’s 88 counties who demonstrates academic merit and financial need. The Young Scholars Program, serving needy students from the nine largest urban public school districts in Ohio, provides scholarship opportunities for academically talented first-generation students to attend Ohio State.

The American Talent Initiative is funded with an initial $1.7 million grant for central administrative support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Member institutions are committing substantial need-based aid at their individual campuses. The nonprofit Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R will co-manage the initiative.

The American Talent Initiative is one of two national initiatives focused on college access in which Ohio State plays a leadership role. Ohio State is part of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a coalition of 11 public research universities committed to making quality college degrees accessible to a diverse body of students. UIA members work to test and disseminate proven innovations in education so colleges and universities across the country can be more successful in retaining and graduating all students.