Wilson Admission Center, Amherst College
Photo by Adam Grim

Amherst is among 30 colleges and universities forming a new initiative aimed at increasing the number of talented low- and moderate-income students who earn bachelor’s degrees.

The American Talent Initiative, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, has brought together public and private institutions that share a commitment to providing access to higher education. Members will enhance their own efforts to recruit and support lower-income students, and will also share information and contribute to research that will help other colleges and universities do the same.

For the member schools, the goal is to use proven methods to attract, enroll and graduate 50,000 additional high-achieving, lower-income students by 2025—not only at their own schools but at 270 U.S. colleges and universities that have graduation rates of 70 percent or higher.

“If we’re serious about promoting social mobility in America, we need to ensure that every qualified high school student in the U.S. has an opportunity to attend college,” said former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement announcing the program. “This is a vital first step towards creating a more meritocratic society.” He is founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, whose initial $1.7 million, multiyear grant will fund the program.

At Amherst, 58 percent of students receive need-based financial aid, 23 percent receive Pell Grants and 17 percent are the first members of their families to attend college. The average annual financial aid package is more than $50,000. Among its peer institutions, Amherst has the most economic diversity.