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Hamilton & Fellow ATI Members Expand Student Access


Hamilton is a member of the American Talent Initiative (ATI), a national alliance of leading colleges and universities that released a new report this week showing the organization is on track to enroll 50,000 more lower-income students by 2025. The findings underscore the importance of ATI’s collaborative push to expand opportunity and socioeconomic diversity across the country.

Between 2015 and 2016 (the year before ATI launched) and the 2017-18 school year, U.S. colleges and universities with graduation rates of 70 percent or higher—Hamilton among them—added 20,696 students who qualify for Pell grants. (Pell grants are federal need-based grants that are typically awarded to students who come from the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution.) That number represents more than 40 percent of ATI’s 2025 goal. While ATI measures the collective progress of all high-graduation-rate colleges, those that have joined ATI have contributed disproportionately to this increase.

Hamilton, in its continuing push to expand access and opportunity for students of all backgrounds, admitted a first-year class in 2019 that had a record-high 21 percent Pell-eligible students up four percentage points from five years ago. Hamilton’s first-year student retention for Pell-eligible students is higher than the non-Pell-eligible student rate, and graduation rates are comparable for both groups. The College joined ATI in 2018.

“We are very pleased to be part of the American Talent Initiative, as the organization’s goals are very much aligned with Hamilton’s. This year Hamilton is celebrating our 10th year of need-blind admission, while continuing to honor our long-standing commitment to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students,” said Vice President of Admission and Financial Aid Monica Inzer.

ATI, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies and managed by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, has grown from 30 founding members in 2016 to 128 at the end of 2019 and includes flagship state universities, prominent liberal arts colleges, and every member of the Ivy League. There are 37 public and 91 private member institutions. Hamilton College has been an ATI member since 2018. The initiative is also funded by the Gray Foundation and the Jeffrey H. and Shari L. Aronson Family Foundation. 

“We are excited to see colleges and universities significantly increasing access to all qualified students—no matter their family’s income,” said Jenny Sharfstein Kane, who leads the College Access and Success work at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “What’s more, we are learning the most effective strategies for opening these doors of opportunity. We salute the schools that are leading the way through aggressive, comprehensive approaches and will continue to push for even more progress ahead.”

Financial aid at Hamilton

Financial aid is a priority of the Because Hamilton campaign and donor support is critical to ensuring the College continues to attract the very best students regardless of their financial need.

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Data for the 2018-19 school year are not yet publicly available for all high-graduation-rate colleges and universities, and data collected from 120 ATI member institutions indicate that continued progress toward the goal is not guaranteed. While the majority of ATI schools increased Pell enrollment between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, that was offset by declines at other institutions. Overall, Pell enrollment at ATI schools stayed virtually the same over the year.

The ATI institutions sustaining or making the most progress take a comprehensive approach to socioeconomic diversity: 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.

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