Invest in talented young adults, and they will help us solve the world’s problems. That was the charge of Dan Porterfield, president of Franklin & Marshall College and incoming president of the Aspen Institute, to college and university presidents who gathered February 22-23 in New York City for the American Talent Initiative (ATI) annual presidential summit.

The effort, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and co-led by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, has an ambitious goal: attract, enroll and graduate an additional 50,000 low-and-moderate income students by 2025 at the nation’s colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates.

In a time of stark income inequality, Porterfield enumerated the benefits that higher education can have on all aspects of society. For example, college graduates are more civically engaged and live longer, healthier lives than those who have not attended college. They strengthen local economies and are more likely to send their children to college. And, he pointed out, lower-income students who attend ATI-member institutions are more likely to graduate and experience greater economic mobility.

The Ohio State University President Michael Drake, and Franklin & Marshall President Dan Porterfield) outlined steps to move the entire ATI sector toward the 50,000-student goal. Some of the ideas included:

  • Strategies to help fix the broken pipeline for high-achieving community college students who want to transfer to four-year institutions, but often don’t;
  • Collaborations with the business community, which needs a talented workforce to grow; and
  • Innovative partnerships with K-12 to create pipelines that would help more talented students aspire and apply to four-year institutions.

Read the full article about the  American Talent Initiative by Josh Wyner and Martin Kurzweil at The Aspen Institute.