American Talent Initiative report reveals top institutions growth towards 2025 goal

The American Talent Initiative released its second annual impact report of data from its top Pell-eligible producing institutions from 2015 to 2019, including the University of Iowa. The report highlights the initiative’s progression toward its 2025 goal.


Jake Maish

University of Iowa Provost Montserrat Fuentes poses for a portrait for The Daily Iowan in her office in Jessup Hall on Monday, March 2.

Riley Davis, News Reporter

Two years after the University of Iowa joined the American Talent Initiative, a new report reveals that it is one of the top-producing institutions in the program and is continuously working to expand access and opportunities for lower-income students on campus.

According to the American Talent Inititative’s second annual impact report, the UI has increased the program’s Pell growth by 383 students since the 2018-2019 academic year — bringing its Pell share to 20 percent.

Currently, the report states that 20,696 students have been enrolled by American Talent Initiative institutions, making up 40 percent of the program’s overarching goal to enroll 50,000 Pell-eligible students by 2025.

UI Provost Montserrat Fuentes said that by participating in the American Talent Initiative, the UI is demonstrating its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“We are an institution [that is] concerned that students from low-income families are less likely to graduate from college than are students from high income families,” Fuentes said. “As institutions, we need to make sure that every talented and motivated student [has] the opportunity to achieve their potential regardless of socioeconomic status.”

Manager of Strategic Programs for the Office of the Provost Sarah Hansen said the university built a team to better support students who have “high ability” but significant financial needs that may impact their success at the UI, after joining the initiative in 2018.

Ensuring student success is a priority, Hansen said, while also aiming to continue growth and support for all while focusing on lower-income and Pell-eligible students.

“Part of what we’re doing is educating future leaders of the world and future citizens, and we have abundant evidence that the more diverse a team is, in any setting, the better it functions — you get a variety of ideas and a variety of viewpoints,” Hansen said. “So the more that we can have a diverse community here at [the UI] — everyone benefits from that. You would hate to see a student who could be the next future leader of any particular area miss that opportunity simply because they can’t afford to be here and to access the full range of opportunities that are available.”

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UI Academic Support and Retention Director Mirra Anson said that ongoing efforts to support students can be put into three categories.

The first component, she said, looks at student-experience data to see what students may need and how the university can respond accordingly. The second is an expansion of retention grants from the Office of Student Financial Aid, such as the Hawkeye Completion Grant, Anson said.

The last component is a pilot program that the American Talent Initiative created, which targets 25 first-year students to help them navigate the university, she said, and builds student connections with campus employers, mentors, peers, and civic engagement and leadership.

Anson said the UI’s work with the American Talent Initiative is ongoing and something that will continue to evolve to better support their students.

“There is really no better vehicle for social mobility and economic progress than higher education,” she said. “And so, I think that it’s the University of Iowa’s inherent mission to be part of that and to be a part of a larger network of higher education [like the American Talent Initiative] — that’s what we should be doing.”