As part of the Achieve UC program - which spreads the word that a University of California education is attainable for low-income students - Thomas Parham, UCI's vice chancellor of student affairs, meets with about 100 students at Manuel Dominguez High School in Compton. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., May 1, 2017 — The University of California, Irvine is aligning with 67 of the nation’s top colleges and universities to substantially increase the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s undergraduate institutions with the highest overall graduation rates.

The American Talent Initiative unites diverse public and private institutions in this common goal. ATI members will enhance their own efforts to recruit, enroll and support lower-income students; learn from each other; and contribute to research that will help other colleges and universities expand opportunity. They will seek to ensure that these “missing” students have a path to attend and thrive at institutions with the highest graduation rates and best track records for postgraduate success.

“As good as UCI is at serving low-income students, we know there is always the ability to achieve more,” said Michael Dennin, vice provost for teaching and learning at UCI. “ATI allows us to better share best practices with other highly competitive institutions and rapidly adjust to the changing needs of all of our students.”

The UCI commitment

UCI is strongly committed to providing a step up for disadvantaged students. The New York Times ranked it the No. 1 school in the nation for doing the most for low-income students. Its website The Upshot compiled its 2015 College Access Index based on the share of students who receive Pell Grants; the graduation rate of those students; and the price that universities charge both low- and middle-income students.

Mainly through its Center for Educational Partnerships, UCI provides guidance and resources to more than 11,000 students annually at predominantly low-income community high schools via efforts such as the Early Academic Outreach Program. UCI staff and students are in over 30 local high schools weekly, offering advice on course taking, academic preparation and navigating the college application process. This support continues through agreements with local community colleges that guarantee transfer admission to UCI and other four-year universities.

One leading example of UCI’s outreach success is the Anteater Academy, a college prep program and small learning community at Santa Ana’s Valley High School. Its graduates have been accepted to some of America’s top universities – including UCI – and are now pursuing careers in law, medicine, engineering, computer science, management, education, public health, business, economics, architecture, criminal justice and political science.

In 2015, as a result of a partnership with Santa Ana schools, the work of the Center for Educational Partnerships received the Governor’s Award for Innovation in Higher Education. About $1 million from this award has been used to establish an endowed scholarship for students who come to UCI from Santa Ana.

The center also invests in their success once they’re on campus, with scholarships, internships and leadership development via programs such as SAGE Scholars.

“Through the Center for Educational Partnerships, UCI works with local schools, community partners and industry to help level the playing field for students from underserved communities,” said Stephanie Reyes-Tuccio, executive director of the center. “We are committed to making higher education accessible to students from every community and every background. It is a responsibility we all share, and we know our future depends on it.”

There are many other campus units that work to advance student success. For instance, Student Support Services offers its signature Summer Bridge program for incoming first-generation, low-income first-year students, and its Trio Scholars program assists more than 140 low-income students throughout the entirety of their academic careers.

Student Support Services has also created a Gateway Initiative that lets low-income students take advantage of several opportunities, including scholarships for on-campus academic needs and a program dedicated to students’ second-year needs.

The ATI national goal

Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the American Talent Initiative was launched in December 2016 with the objective of educating 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students at the 270 colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates by 2025. Based on the most recent federal data available, there are about 430,000 lower-income students enrolled at these institutions, and ATI seeks to increase that to about 480,000. To help reach this ambitious goal, ATI aims to add more top-performing colleges to its membership in the coming months and years.

Colleges and universities participating in ATI will further the national goal of developing more talent from every American neighborhood by:

  • Recruiting students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds via robust outreach;
  • Making certain that admitted lower-income students enroll and are retained through practices shown to be effective;
  • Prioritizing need-based financial aid; and
  • Minimizing or eliminating gaps in progression and graduation rates between and among students from low-, moderate- and high-income families.

UCI and other ATI members will share lessons learned as well as institutional data and, throughout the coming years, will annually publish their aggregate progress toward meeting the objective of educating 50,000 additional lower-income students by 2025. The Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, the two nonprofit organizations coordinating the initiative, will study the practices that lead to measurable progress and share that knowledge through regular publications. The first of these, focusing on financial strategies to bolster lower-income student success, was published in February on the ATI website.

For more information about ATI and its member universities, see

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

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