UM joins effort to graduate more low-income students

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan is joining a national alliance working to increase the enrollment and graduation of high-achieving students from low- and moderate-income families in the nation’s top colleges and universities, officials said Tuesday.

The effort is being launched with $10 million over the next two years by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies in a project known as the American Talent Initiative. Its goal is to increase the number of students to 65,000 in the nation’s 265 top colleges and universities.

“Talent is distributed evenly throughout our society, but opportunity most certainly is not,” said UM President Mark Schlissel. “The University of Michigan is proud to partner on this historic initiative to address our nation’s pressing need to ensure equal opportunities for students across the socioeconomic spectrum.”

The initiative comes as the national dialogue about diversity in higher education is evolving from race and ethnicity to income.

Tens of thousands of students fail to apply to top universities even though graduating from a top school could increase a student’s economic mobility by boosting income 25 percent, or about $450,000, over a lifetime, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“Many of America’s brightest students don’t apply to college simply because they lack access to the right information and guidance, particularly students from low- and middle-income families who want to go to competitive colleges but don’t think they can afford it,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

“That limits their opportunities and contradicts what we stand for as a society — and it holds us back as a nation because it prevents so many smart young people from contributing to the best of their abilities.”

Among the efforts, advisers will be matched with high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students and information will be shared on the real costs of college after scholarship and financial aid.

Besides UM, the 30 participating universities will include Harvard University, University of California, Berkeley and Spelman College.

At UM, 7 percent of in-state UM students come from families with incomes between $25,001-$50,000, and 9 percent come from families with income of $25,000 or less, according to 2015 data. Meanwhile, 55 percent of in-state students come from families with incomes exceeding $150,000.

UM in October rolled out an $85 million plan to increase diversity.

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