The University of Michigan has committed to continually increasing its enrollment of low-income students and taking steps to ensure they graduate at the same rate as their more affluent peers.
The pledge is part of the university’s recommitment to the American Talent Initiative, a national effort that brings together 125 colleges and universities under the shared goal of increasing enrollment for low- and moderate-income students.
As part of its goal to enroll more students eligible for federal Pell grants and shrink a 5-point gap in graduation rates between Pell and non-Pell students, U-M will allocate greater funding to promote the Go Blue Guarantee — a full-tuition scholarship for high-achieving, lower-income students in Michigan — and continue to support institutional grants that close the financial aid gap for out-of-state students from lower-income backgrounds.
The university also will establish a process to reach out to students who are not registered for subsequent terms, better communicate with them about how to return if they leave, and evaluate and align readmission processes among U-M’s schools and colleges.
“As we emerge from a global pandemic that we know has disproportionately affected those from lower-income backgrounds, it’s more important than ever that higher education is accessible and supports student success,” said Paul Robinson, associate vice provost, university registrar and interim vice provost for enrollment management.
U-M was one of 30 founding members the American Talent Initiative that joined forces in December 2016 with the goal of increasing by 50,000 the number of low- and moderate-income students enrolled nationwide by 2025.
Since that time, the percentage of U-M students who are Pell-eligible has grown from 16.3 to 19.3 percent last fall. In the years since the Go Blue Guarantee launched in January 2018, the number of enrolled in-state Pell-eligible students has increased by more than 600.
The initiative, which was launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has since grown to 125 institutions.
The American Talent Initiative’s third annual progress report released late last month included enrollment data from the 2019-20 academic year and Fall 2020, and outlined four key findings:
Between 2015-16 and 2019-20, ATI member schools collectively increased Pell enrollment by 10,417 students. U-M alone accounted for 14 percent of that growth, enrolling an additional 1,401 Pell-eligible students.
In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative’s progress leveled off and began to reverse, due in part to “substantial declines” at some member schools that enroll high shares of Pell students.
Fall 2020 enrollment data showed a one-year drop of more than 7,000 Pell students caused by declines in first-time and transfer Pell student enrollment at public institutions, and decreased retention at private institutions. Declines in the COVID-19 era have nearly erased all progress made since the initiative launched.
U-M’s plans were highlighted as part of ATI’s “Accelerating Opportunity” campaign in which member institutions adopt public, aspirational goals in an effort to reverse the recent enrollment trends. The university’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiative includes recruiting, retaining and developing a diverse university community as a key priority.
“The University of Michigan is dedicated to enrolling lower-income students, a commitment we are reaffirming by participating in the Accelerating Opportunity campaign,” Robinson said. “As a public institution, it’s important we do all that we can to ensure a high-quality education is available to all, no matter a student or family’s financial means.”