Elizabethtown College, alongside eighty-five other colleges in the United States, has joined the American Talent Initiative (ATI) with the intent of helping more lower-income students receive a higher education. With hopes that school attendance will increase and incoming students, it will be interesting to see how Etown sticks to its goals within this program.
The American Talent Initiative was started by Bloomberg Philanthropies in Dec. 2016. The program works with institutions to accept and offer financial aid to lower- and moderate-income students with achievements and talents.
Etown, with the help of ATI, will focus on receiving more transfer students from local community colleges and universities. This will address both goals for the college of accepting lower-income students and increasing the overall attendance at the college.
To achieve these goals, the College intends to use several tactics. Aside from accepting more transfer students, the program will identify and seek out talented and high achieving students from high schools and community colleges. The College will also seek out more Pell Grant recipients, Pell-eligible students, and first-generation college students. Need-based aid would be increased in order to make attendance possible for these lower-income students.
Finally, the college intends to focus on keeping and graduating more lower-income students. The hope is to graduate lower-income and higher income-students at a similar rate.
The project as a whole seems like a step forward into making the College more accessible. From the standpoint of a lower-income student, nothing affects the final college decision like the reality of having to come up with the money for school.
Likewise, nothing is more anxiety-inducing than getting money together. This institution gives a lot to its students academically. However, increasing tuition and other expenses like textbooks and meal plans add stress to the average lower-income student. Imagine Etown as a fire in a hearth; warm and inviting, but without fuel everything goes up in smoke and some are left out in the cold.
One of the greater issues faced by lower-income students is looking ahead in terms of money. Scholarships come and go and some years yield more than others. One year, a student could have several scholarships and spendable cash; the next, the scholarships dry up and the money’s gone toward food and medicine.
That was my first year at Etown – constantly fishing for pockets of cash in order to keep my meal plan activated. Now a sophomore, I have found stable footing for the upcoming semester. However, my story is like so many others in which our place here seems unstable because of money.
In addition, the partnership with ATI will attempt to increase socio-economic diversity on campus. It makes sense that high tuitions attract a higher-income population, so the arrival of lower-income and middle-income students will be a welcome change.
The College has diversified a lot in the past ten years. That being said, the school continues to have greater populations of high-income, white students. The inclusion of more students from other income groups would be an eye-opening experience for the usual sheltered population.
I spoke with Interim Coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Residential Communities Stephanie Diaz, who shared her views on socio-economic diversity on college campuses.
“Any time we offer opportunities to people who have not been afforded the chance before, we are doing good work,” Diaz said.
A great opportunity and one I’d welcome. But all plans come with an important question; how do we keep this up?