Photo by Steve Davis

A national alliance of colleges and universities, including Knox College, is on track to meet its goal of enrolling 50,000 more lower-income students by 2025, according to a report by the American Talent Initiative. 

The American Talent Initiative was formed in December 2016 to support and encourage U.S. colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates in their efforts to expand opportunity for lower-income students. Knox joined ATI in November 2017.

The new report, released in February, describes the progress made so far: Between the 2015-16 and 2017-18 academic years, enrollment of low- and middle-income students (those who qualify for Pell grants) increased by 20,696 at the 320 ATI-eligible institutions, which is more than 40 percent of the way toward the 2025 goal. 

The report mentions the efforts of several individual institutions, including Knox, that are committed to expanding educational opportunities for lower-income students. 

“Knox College has an endowment of about $178 million, one of the smallest of any ATI member. Yet Knox has made a resounding commitment to enrolling lower-income students sustainably,” according to the report. 

“The institution’s founders made this commitment to socioeconomic diversity in 1837, and a deep sense of mission is still embedded in the institution today,” the report added. “President Teresa Amott, who has led the college since 2011, ties this mission to the educational growth of students, emphasizing that ‘students will learn the most from the people least like them. That’s the core educational dimension of our community.’”

The report also pointed out that Knox fosters a sense of belonging and community for students who are on campus. For example, every student, regardless of need, receives a $2,000 Power of Experience grant to help fund high-impact experiences, such as summer internships and study abroad.

Knox’s efforts are succeeding, according to the report. The six-year graduation-rate gap between students who qualify for Pell grants and Knox students overall dropped from 12 percentage points for the 2010 cohort to 4 percentage points for the 2012 cohort. 

ATI is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and co-managed by The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R. The initiative is also funded by the Gray Foundation and the Jeffrey H. and Shari L. Aronson Family Foundation.